Today, Josef Frank is perhaps primarily known for the colorful textiles and furniture of his later years, and his substantial impact on design in Sweden, where he emigrated in 1933. But Frank’s work in Vienna, and particularly Villa Beer, which is currently facing substantial alterations to its interior, deserves more than just a cursory glance.
Designed in 1927, Frank envisioned Villa Beer as a collection of interior sequences, layered to produce dynamic spatial effects, as visitors enter through a red door hidden under a large central oriel and proceed through a small anteroom into a spacious two-story hall. The hall, which centers around a dramatic spiraling staircase, reveals the home’s different levels, while floating platforms project outward like branches, providing dramatic views of the space.
The Beers of Villa Beer are Julius and Margarete Beer, owners of a successful shoe factory and fervent music lovers who were eager to make the experience of music the focal point of the home. Frank responded to their requests by housing a grand piano in a floating mezzanine which allows the sounds of music to be carried throughout the house.
Despite what the almost-modern open plan of the central hall and the stark white paint of the rooms might imply, Frank found inspiration for the Villa in English homes of the second half of the 19th century, with their rambling layouts, winding stairs, and cozy inglenooks. Frank also turned to the fabric of historical urban spaces, believing that “a well-organized house should be laid out like a city, with streets and alleys that lead inevitably to places that are cut off from traffic, so that one can rest there.” His interiors offer the visitor a variety of possibilities, providing seemingly natural pathways that lead to nooks and outlooks offering a variety of vantage points from which to experience the space. “The shortest path is not the most comfortable one, and the straight stairway is not always the best—indeed almost never,” Frank wrote.
Frank designed the complex spatial configuration of Villa Beer in the service of producing psychological impressions on the visitor. Much like his contemporary, Adolph Loos, Frank designed his homes from the outside in, believing architecture should provoke a strong emotional response with its complex interrelationship between the spaces, varied room levels and heights, and sensuously articulated interiors where soft and rich materials contrast with the relative harshness of the architecture.
Please take a minute and sign the petition to preserve the original interiors of Villa Beer.
Some additional photos of the beautiful Villa Beer after the cut.