Vienna took its interiors seriously. Between 1898 and 1938, many of this city’s greatest minds grappled with how to structure and appoint the inner spaces of everyday life.  The result—the modern home— would possess an interior that (according to its creators) fitted another, more impenetrable interior:  the subjective inwardness of the home’s inhabitants.  Built architecture and psychic sphere, the Viennese interior was a contested matrix of human values. The novelist Hermann Broch portrayed fin-de siècle Vienna as a "value vacuum." The following lectures given by Joseph Leo Koerner at University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and the Secession explore Viennese homemaking as attempts to fill that vacuum.  The Vienna Interior has also been taught as an undergraduate and graduate seminar in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. 


The Tanner Lectures 2012
The Viennese Interior / Architecture & Inwardness

Lecture 1 / The Kiss

November 13, 2012
Robinson College, Cambridge, UK

Lecture 2 / The Burning Child

November 13, 2012
Robinson College, Cambridge, UK


Secession / Vienna / Austria

The Viennese Interior

Organized by the Friends of the Secession and held in the Main Hall at the Secession, Vienna, Austria

Thursday, March 14, 2013



HAA 172 Vienna Interior / Fall 2013

This course explores the astonishing achievements of Vienna during its cultural golden age through attempts by its architects, artists, writers, psychologist and philosophers—among them Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein—to imagine a new architecture of home.  At once a built environment and a psychic space, the Vienna interior has become a blueprint of dwelling and of exile for our modern world.

The course treats its theme chronologically, beginning with Vienna’s attempts, at 1900, to become a modern mega-city through infrastructural improvements.  We consider how new building materials and techniques, dramatically accelerated travel, and massive increases in scale transformed the Viennese sense of place, motivating new approaches to urban planning.  In the movement calling itself the Secession, we investigate the emergence of a novel art form called Raumkunst intended to synthesize art, architecture, and design in the form of a beautiful home.  Predicated on a new understanding of the human self based in biology, Raumkunst attempted to allow the city dweller an enclave of fulfillment through the magic of art.  Meanwhile, however, other Viennese artists and designers were discovering a more troubled subjectivity (reflected in innovative literary, musical, and artistic techniques) for which a different kind of home-making was required.  In Adolf Loos’s critique of ornament, we consider the birth of modern architecture in Vienna.

The outbreak of World War One in 1914 (a century ago) changed radically the city’s fortunes.  Defeated, Austria was stripped of its territories and transformed into a tiny Alpine republic, with Vienna as its over-large and ineffectual capital.  However, with the influx of immigrants from the East, and with a Socialist municipal government in charge, Red Vienna (as it was called) embarked on one of the most ambitious and influential housing projects in history.  This experiment ceased with the beginning of Austro-Fascist rule in 1934 and Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938.  The course ends with a visit to the home of Sigmund Freud, whose writings have been a guide in the course, and whose flight into exile in 1938 reflects the catastrophe that would befall Jewish Vienna.



Joseph Leo Koerner, “The Ringstrasse at 150 Years”
From Burlington Magazine 154, no. 1358 (January 2016)





Joseph Leo Koerner, “Die Stelle” in der unbegrentzen Großstadt
From Otto Wagner und die Wienger Stadtbahn, ed. Alfred Fogarassy (Vienna:  Hatje Cantz, 2017)

Joseph Leo Koerner, Stellen in the Unbounded Metropolis