Competing Visions
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Competing Visions

Aesthetic Invention and Social Imagination in Central European Architecture, 1867-1918

By ákos Moravánsky





The Habsburg monarchy and its successor states played a significant role in the development of modern culture. Although scholars have recognized the contributions of Viennese intellectuals, they have all but ignored those of other centers such as Budapest, Prague, Brno, Cracow, Zagreb, and Ljubljana. Historical research in Central Europe still emphasizes national and regional differences rather than common issues and developments. In this book Ákos Moravánszky presents the first comparative study of the architecture of the countries that defined the Austro-Hungarian monarchy from 1867 to 1918. He discusses the aesthetic innovations of Central European architects by analyzing key buildings and by studying the crucial debates about modernity, national identity, tectonic form, and the social role of the architect. As a reflection of this complexity, the issue-centered chapters explore architectural history in clusters, rather than through a linear development toward a monolithic modern form. Central European intellectuals recognized that real change cannot be introduced merely by changing the political and economic system; human consciousness itself must be transformed. Artists and architects played a leading role in this transformation as they explored the limits of their freedom. Although their social environment contained many feudal elements, their cultural heritage offered more artistic freedom than did other historical regions of Europe. This book unfolds the wide spectrum of problems that Central European artists and architects faced in the first decades of the century. It also examines the changing interpretation of architecture by the critics of the time. Published with the assistance of the Getty Grant Program.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262133340 524 pp. | 10.5 in x 9.3 in


  • Moravanszky's intimate familiarity with the architecture of Central europe combined with his ability to read much of the relevant literature in the original language has enabled him not only to present a comprehensive picture, but also to formulate very convincing interpretations of the architectural trends and urban transformation in the austro-Hungarian Monarchy and its successor states. He also provides extremely insightful characterizations of the difference between architectural and urban design developments in these countries and Western Europe. The author's approach is entirely in tune with the best recent research in architectural history in its quest to reach out beyond description and formal analysis to an understanding of the widest possible ideological context.

    Eduard F. Sekler

    Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

  • Uniformity and diversity were the competing forces that drove the cultural life of the austro-Hungarian Empire in the late nineteenth century. In the realm of architecture, classicism was ranged against regionalism, asceticism against ornamentalism, rationalism against psychologism. Akos Moravanszky succeeds brilliantly in explicating these diverse imperatives, which vied with each other to create the vibrant architectural cultures of Vienna, Prague and Budapest. While Moravanszky's text embraces a wealth of buildings and architects, his facts are always at the sevice of the wider narrative. A timely and lucid book.

    Iain Boyd Whyte

    Professor of Architectural History, University of Edinburgh

  • Akos Moravanszky's remarkable achievement is his ability to show the reader not only what is distinctive in the architecture of the countries, formerly designated by westerners as 'Eastern Europe,' but also convincingly demonstrate what they hold in common as members of an all-European culture. His phenomenal knowledge of both the major as well as minor languages of Central europe allows him to tap into sources hitherto inaccessible to western scholars. His narrative proves beyond any doubt that the term 'Central europe' implies not only Vienna, Budapest, Warsaw, or Prague, but draws into its orbit Berlin, Paris, or London as well. Lucid text and copious illustrations make this a handsome addition to any serious library of architecture.

    Eric Dluhosch

    Professor Emeritus, Department of Architecture, MIT

  • Professor Moravanszky's book is one of those rare scholarly works that stem from personal experience and concern, but succeed in illuminating general issues. It asks subjective questions, but subjective questions that can be shared by many, and answers them in a precise and lively way. The reader travels through a piece of history that suddenly reveals itself in an unexpected and fascinating light. Many episodes form new historical constellations, and these constellations shed light not only on the past, but also on issues and debates of contemporary architectural culture.

    Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani

    Professor for the History of Urban Design, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

  • Moravánszky has broken new ground in this study devoted to thearchitecture and city planning of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Rather thanfocusing on one region or country within the empire, Moravanszky takes abroader view and sees a plurality of modernistic expressions that, whiledistinct on their own, testify to a universalist vision of a nation—anation that incorporates many cultures and languages but shares a commonhistory.

    Wim de Wit

    The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and theHumanities