SYMPOSIUM “Open Modernism – The Future of Villa Beer”

25 and 26th February 2022

presented by ÖGFA and DOCOMOMO Austria, in cooperation with the Villa Beer GmbH. The Symposium will be streamed live and will be simultaneously translated into English.

program and registration

The news that Villa Beer, a key work of Viennese modernism designed by Josef Frank and Oskar Wlach, would soon be renovated and opened to the public provided the occasion for this international symposium. Josef Frank was the leading figure of the generation succeeding Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann, and although he maintained a critical distance to the post-WWI international avant-garde, he was one of the few Austrian architects to be counted among its protagonists. Villa Beer, erected from 1929 to 1930 on the western edge of Vienna, is considered both Frank’s most important residence and – as set forth in his seminal text, “The House as Path and Place” (1931) – a manifesto of his conception of modern living.

The spaces humans inhabit and the “changing demands” placed on them – a programmatic platform in the work of Josef Frank and many of his colleagues – might at first glimpse appear to be irreconcilable with the notion of a restoration adhering to the tenets of historic preservation. The testimony provided by iconic modernist houses is, however, not just a consequence of the masterful resolution of formal aspects, but, perhaps more importantly, of the historical significance of their programmatic aims. What will be communicated – and to whom – when this work of architecture is made accessible to the public? Which instruments are employed, and how does an “inverted design process“ – which begins with an analysis and then turns to the conservation and presentation of the existing substance – deal with current technical and functional requirements?

The symposium – structured in thematic sessions, each featuring two lectures, followed by brief responses and a discussion – will delve into these and other questions. It starts off with an evening lecture introducing some of the overarching themes. On the first full day, we will address essential questions and conduct an in-depth examination of Villa Beer. On the second day, by juxtaposing case studies of prominent museum/houses, we will explore a variety of topics relevant to refurbishing modernist houses and opening them to the public. The final panel will return to the issue of “museum houses of Viennese modernism.”