July 13th is the 172nd birthday of Otto Wagner. Wagner is one of the first people to use the term “modern architecture,” although his work doesn’t embody the theoretical or stylistic connotations of that term. Nonetheless, he was more than aware of the strangeness of modernity.
This rendering, published in the 1897 edition of Moderne Architektur is strikingly dense for what was, at the time, considered the uncultured work of an engineer. Wagner and his studio produced incredible draftsmanship, but this rendering stands out because of its sheer uncanniness. Look at the two columns. One is stone, safe and solid. The other is cast iron, modern and delicate. A woman works, men turn their backs, and a locomotive of the Weiner Stadtbahn lurks. There are superhuman things and unseen layers to cities, a fact to be made beautiful.
After the break are two more under-appreciated projects of his, one for an asymmetrical bridge over a lock, and the other is the earliest architectural photomontage I am aware of, from 1906.
Seen here is the new Walgreens in Van Ness, at Veazey & Connecticut. A big improvement on the gas station that’s there, and an even bigger improvement over the previous plans. In terms of land use, the site would be better as a multistory building, and not as another chain convenience store, but it’s also limited by zoning.
Designed by Rust|Orling, I think the building is a really poor imitation of a mid-mod style, an eyesore in a place where we don’t need any more. R|O are otherwise a good firm with a keen ability to manifest architectural diversity, but it looks like modern architecture is not their strong suite. They’re also restoring the art deco Walgreens in Cleveland Park and are the designers of Potomac Yards.
Construction has not begun, and these are working renderings.