Thursday, January 7, 2016

More Tales from the Vienna Woods: Villa Moeller, Part 2

After we published the post on Villa Moeller last week,  Mr. Yoel Sher, the Israeli ambassador in Vienna from 1995 to 1998, sent us a short article with more details about the history of the house,  also describing his experiences of living and working in this unusual building. Below we bring you some extracts from the article, translated into English. 

The story goes that Adolf Loos, the architect who built Villa Moeller, lived with Hans Moeller and his family for three months in order to learn about them and their preferences, and planned the house accordingly. They would have been very happy there if it were not for the Germans, who annexed Austria in 1938. The Moeller family, whose relatives had already founded the ATA factory in 1934, decided to immigrate to Palestine.

During the war the commander of the Gestapo in Vienna lived in the house. After the war it was returned to Moeller, but he was so angry about the demand to pay city taxes for all the years of occupation and war, that he no longer wanted it. He gave it to the state to serve as a home for Israel's representatives in Vienna, at first at consular level.  In 1955 the four occupying powers decided to leave and signed an agreement by which Austria became independent again, on condition that it remained neutral between East and West. Israel recognized Austria and sent an ambassador to Vienna.
,Ambassador Sher presents his credentials in a snowstorm in Vienna, December 1995
  accompanied by the Austrian head of protocol. Photograph: Yoel Sher, private collection
[…..]
Israel's representatives in Vienna continue to live and work in the house even though it is not very convenient. Since it was built by Loos, it is a listed historic building, and not even a nail can be knocked into the wall without permission from the department of preservation of the Vienna municipality. The small dining room, for example, cannot be enlarged to make it suitable for official entertaining.

Hans Moeller was an amateur cello player and liked to invite people to musical evenings in his home. Loos planned a raised dining room which served as a stage, with stairs without a railing down to the living room. Many ladies have sprained or broken their legs trying to walk down the stairs in high heels. 

As well as the straight lines of the exterior, Loos' style included built in furniture which is fixed to the walls, such as sofas which cannot be moved or replaced. Not very practical!

 . View of the dining room, Villa Moeller
Photograph: Wikiarchitectura

The house is in a suburb off the main road, and busloads of architectural students from all over the world come to see and photograph it. They would very much like to see inside, and it's a pity the embassy can't let them in and charge admission fees. Some ambassadors have tried to persuade the Vienna municipality to turn it into an architectural museum and to give the embassy a more suitable home. In the face of municipal bureaucracy and delays, the three years of their posting come to an end and they pass on the responsibility to the new ambassador …. 

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