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Ambivalences of Modernity. The Architect and City Planner Roland Rainer Between Dictatorship and Democracy

Project leader:
Angelika Schnell (IKA)

Project team:
Ingrid Holzschuh, Waltraud Indrist, Susanne Rick, Monika Platzer (Architekturzentrum Wien)

3 years

Funded by :
FWF | Stand-alone project (P34938)

FWF | Stand-alone project
led by Angelika Schnell, Institute for Art and Architecture
Duration: 1.1.2022 – 31.12.2024

Roland Rainer was one of the best-known architects and urban planners of post-war modernism in Austria. The Stadthalle in Vienna (1958), the Puchenau housing estate near Linz (1965-2000) and the ORF Centre in Vienna (1968-1974) are among his buildings. It is less well known that he went to Berlin as early as 1936, two years before Austria's "Anschluss" to the National Socialist German Reich in 1938, and placed himself in the service of the German Academy for Urban Development, Reich and Regional Planning (DASRL), which was practically and theoretically subordinate to Albert Speer, the General Building Inspector for the Reich capital. Consequently, he was integrated into the National Socialist system not only through his early membership in the NSDAP, but also through his practice, hardly just through opportunism. In fact, he already developed his central theories on urban planning and architecture in the early 1940s at the DASRL. During this period, he conceived and wrote, together with his colleagues Johannes Göderitz and Hubert Hoffmann, the first version of "Die gegliederte und aufgelockerte Stadt", which was published in 1945 and became a standard work in German-speaking countries in its second version of 1957.

This writing contains something typical for its time: it criticises the modern, densely populated city, it pleads for a garden city model in which living, working, traffic and leisure are disentangled and people live "at ground level". Only in the first version is this living "folk-biologically" propagated as the right way of living. Racist dictions like this are no longer found in the second version of 1957. But has the concept changed significantly as a result?

The research project, a collaboration between the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (where Rainer taught as a professor) and the Architekturzentrum Wien (where Rainer's estate is located), will be dedicated to investigating this question in two ways. On the one hand, Rainer's historical development as a modernist architect will be examined in more detail for the first time; this includes his time as a student at the Vienna University of Technology in the 1920s. On the other hand, a current reassessment of the "ambivalence of architectural modernism" itself will be possible via Rainer's concrete biography. Especially in the context of recent research on colonialism and racism in modern architecture, the question of the inherent biopolitics of garden city models can become substantial with the analysis of Rainer's work. To this end, the "articulated and loosened city" as described by Rainer will be sketched for the first time and compared with other urban planning models. In addition, the complete estate will be reviewed and evaluated, and further material on Rainer will be excavated and analysed in archives in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. In this way, Rainer's work is placed in a differentiated and well-founded context.