Wilhelm Exner Hall
The traces left behind by this versatile personality cannot be overlooked. Wilhelm Exner not only founded the Technical Museum, he also set up the modern form of the Austrian vocational school.
As well as this, he was one of the founders of the chamber of Labour. Above all however, this son of a railway master was one of the driving forces behind the story of the TÜV Austria to which he devoted six decades of his life. One of his greatest accomplishments was the so-called Exner Law. This body of laws which deal with the auditing of materials proved to be very long-lived. In effect from 1910 to 1994 they allowed non governmental businesses to carry out tests and measures and award state certificates.
An interesting side of this pioneer of technical development in Austria was his internationalism. This former grammar school teacher and later rector for the university of agriculture also both spoke and wrote perfect English and French. He was therefore sent as the Austrian representative to World Exhibitions in Paris and London.
With regard to the building in which the Exner Hall can be found, it was originally a factory bought by the Department of Trade in 1899. One year later the headquarters of the bureau for the development of small enterprises was set up here and was managed by the director of the TGM Dr.Wilhelm Exner. Then in 1909 the courtyard was extended.
Even more so than the eponym of the Exner Hall, it seems that it’s creator, the architect Heinrich Kathrein, has totally been forgotten. In 1909 he was the architect commissioned by the Industrial Development Agency to design a meeting room, which would later become known as the Wilhelm Exner Hall, as well as offices and corridors. The influence of Josef Hoffmann is apparent even in Kathrein’s preliminary designs.
What makes the construction of such a hall, built between the years 1909 and 1911, become of such architecturally historical significance today?
In the period before the first world war there was a particularly recognisable form of interior design in which the influence of Josef Hoffmann was decisive. Since most of the offices, hotels and apartments designed in the Hoffmann-school style of architecture were either changed or destroyed over the years, the Exner Hall has a truely unique value today.
The Quintessential Hoffmann
Heinrich Kathrein worked well with (easily) identifiable stylistic devices, as they are typical of Josef Hoffmann: forms like the fragmentation of surfaces into even pieces are as characteristic of his work as the use of the diamond as a decorative form. Equally characteristic is his remarkable fondness for black etched wood with white splices.
Also the fabrics for upholstering as well as the lighting fixtures were carefully attuned in order to give a harmonious overall effect.
Area under exhibit and engineering
Additionally lit glass-panelled cabinets were installed in the walls of the Exner Saal as it originally served as a seat for the industrial developement office. In this way products of the industrial developement office could be displayed. It is thanks to Otto Wagner’s influence on Heinrich Kathrein that the hall was fitted with the newest technolgy available at the time.
From just after the first World War to its restoration in 1998, the Exner Hall fell into disrepair. (Mr. Landsteiner would now like to give you a few brief impressions of what the hall looked like just before its restoration)
After many years of being forgotten and based on the instigation of the former principal, Ms. Fulton, the Exner Hall was restored and remodeled by the office of public works. This was carried out under the direction of a real estate company in which the architect Theophil Melicher assumed responsibility for the on-site building inspection. The renovation of the Exner Hall took exactly one year to complete, from March 1998 to March 1999. The estimated cost of about half a million Euro was adhered to. The task of remodelling the stairs, cloakroom and the balcony was also suitably carried out.
Stairs, Cloakroom, Terrace
Of the original design of the staircase the double doors with linings/frames and the colourful glass windows remain. The cloakroom is to be found in front of the main entrance to the hall and dates back to 1999(?). The old renovated four-winged door still serves as the entrance into the Exner Hall today.
Just a brief note with regard to the terrace – the film-exhibition area was of course removed, the terrace was roofed in and two entrances were built out onto it.
Characteristics of the Hall
Original wooden flooring made from oak parquet is characteristic of the hall. If you take a look up you will see curved segments divided into fielded panels. Symmetry in the room is established through the careful structuring of the walls and ceilings in order to ensure a harmonious balance in the hall.