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St Barbara Church - Baernbach Austria
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© Christine Till
Bärnbach, a village in Styria, Austria, is known for a single attraction: A parish church that used to be quite unattractive until the best-known Austrian contemporary artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, extensively refurbished it.
Hundertwasser, a controversial painter, architect and environmentalist, is often considered an artist of the 'Wiener Schule des Phantastischen Realismus', although his art has his own distinct style. He was one who could perceive the world in crazy colors and turn any tiresome building into a unique piece of art, accepting only "natural", "ecological", "biomorph" styles. Hundertwasser was committed to the pursuit of achieving peace between nature and humanity. He created many pieces aimed to promote awareness of global environmental issues such as water conservation. He designed the e.g. humus toilet, and was obsessed with improving the relationship between people and their environments.
The original church of Saint Barbara in Barnbach was built 1948 - 1953, but it was Friedensreich Hundertwasser who turned it into a unique and joyful masterpiece in 1987 - 1988. Rich in ceramics, embossed ribs of the bell tower, golden "bulbs", golden balls, colored roof, the grass which grow on the ledges, undulating floors unevenly lined with ceramic tiles, all indicate the philosophical concept of the master: "There are no straight lines in nature, there is no absolutely smooth land, a pathway through woods". One of his key-believes was that straight lines lack God. Therefore, you will find corners, edges and walls bending into all sorts of directions at the Bärnbach parish church. He also designed the twelve towers and gates around the church. They represent eleven important religions plus faithless people, and carry the respective symbols of the confessions and of tolerance.
For more of Hundertwasser go to nearby Blumau, or see the Hundertwasser Haus and the KunstHausWien in Vienna, or the world’s most beautiful public toilets in the little town of Kawakawa, New Zealand. The designs have all the ingredients of Hundertwasser's hippie-trippie architecture: Stained glass, colourful tiles, spirals and more spirals.
However, such colorful approach to design was unacceptable for many people. The artist was not popular with everyone. Throughout his life his work, teaching and viewpoints were controversial and some people still have strong opinions about it today.
December 20th, 2012
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