The Austrian Post Office Savings Bank
(Die Österreichische Postsparkasse)
Haupteingang Georg Coch-Platz 2
1010 Vienna

Otto Wagner 1906

Built in Vienna's Secessionist period of expressionist Art Deco architecture, Wagner's Postsparkasse stands out among the other fin de siecle buildings for the seriousness of its challenge to conventional building forms beneath the iconic decoration of the period. It had a decisive influence on the functionally-inspired modernism beginning to emerge in Europe. Its conception was radical and fundamental. As Wagner claimed in his competition submission, 'Nowhere has the slightest sacrifice been made for the benefit of any traditional form.'

The core of the building, raised up and approached through a broad staircased atrium, is the central banking hall: a dramatic bright, white space, glazed both above with a pergola-shaped iron and glass ceiling, and below with a glass-brick floor. The simplicity and scale of this 550-square-meter hall were part of Wagner's innovation, going against the competition rules to combine the checking and savings businesses in one banking hall. As art historian Peter Haiko describes it,

The three-naved, basilical system of this space – a high central nave is accompanied by lower side-naves – this system is in itself a characteristic of church-building in hisotrical architecture... as a modern aesthetic architect, Wagner tries to give his creation a rational base, in order to establish artistic form as the inevitable result of functional form. With the quotation from church architecture, he raises money trading from its profane level... He perfects money dealing with a quotation from a machine room – similarly inherent in the spatal solution – in the same way that labour is taylorised in the machine room.

The facade of the building is monumental, leading into the impressive atrium and up into the banking hall. Winged female figures 4.5 meters high, cast in aluminum, project from the corners of the cornice; one of many contemporary expressionist touches to the building. Aluminum is used decoratively to add personality throughout the building, from the covering of the nails that hold the marble cladding to the walls, to the distinctive, almost human, hot air blowers lining the banking hall (which now serve as air extractors). The buildling stands out from its Secessionist peers in demonstrating the principle that Otto Wagner had proposed in 1895, that 'what is impractical cannot be beautiful.'

Simon Glynn 2007


How to visit

The Postsparkasse continues to operate as a working bank, and can be visited during banking hours. The bank is receptive to architectural visitors, and even offers a small exhibition about the history of the bank and the building. The atrium and banking hall are open to the public, but not the rest of the building.

From Schwedenplatz subway station, walk east by the side of the Danube along Franz-Josefs-Kai, and turn right down Biberstrasse to reach the front of the Postsparkasse building in Georg-Coch-Platz.

Alternatively, from Stephansplatz, head north up Rotenturmstrasse and turn right down Fleischmarkt. This will lead you to the main post office at the end of the street. Go round this building in either direction, and you will come out at the back of the Postsparkasse building. Again, go round in either direction to find the main entrance in Georg-Coch-Platz.

The bank is open from 8am to 3pm Monday to Friday, with late opening until 5.30pm on Thursday.

For more information please call the bank at +43 1 514000.


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