The Vienna World Exposition 1873
Rotunda and Machine Hall: Exposition architecture
Year: || 1873|
|Duration: ||1st may - 31st october 1873
| 1 |
Copyright: Wiener Ausstellungszeitung, 7.12.1873
The objective of the exposition organisers to create on Austrian soil a comprehensive picture of contemporary culture under the omen of the harmonious rapprochement between peoples was graphically reflected by an architectural concept presented by Carl von Hasenauer, the Chief Architect of the exposition. An enormous Exposition Palace with a ceremonial hall at its centre, a Machine Hall, two Agricultural Halls, and the Art Hall reflected the key themes of the exposition. These buildings were supplemented by numerous smaller pavilions erected by the participating foreign countries. These included exotic restaurants such as an Arabian Café, or an Indian Wigwam, worker's housing, a Japanese village with a faithful recreation of typical Japanese countryside including hills, a lake with bridges and a waterfall, and a holy shrine. Also to be seen were a mosque and a copy of the ancient Egyptian rock mausoleum of Beni-Hassan, not to mention the brewery pavilions and a cast iron palm house.
The Rotunda sat on the rectangular hall of the industrial palace which connected to the west and east with 25 metre high lateral halls themselves each flanked on both sides by eight side galleries with a grid separation of 50 metres. The floor plan - described at the time as a "fishbone system" - was based on a five year old design by the architect Eduard van der Nüll and August Sicard von Sicardsburg. His plan was selected because of its transparency and the ability of housing separate countries within the side galleries. It also opened up the possibility of creating additional exhibition space by roofing over the courtyards between the side galleries. The 70,000 square metres of space within the Exposition Palace - which was 907 metres long and 206 metres wide - was constructed with wrought iron pillars supporting flat-arched lattice arches. The spaces between the pillars were bricked up as high as the capitals which also marked the base of the windows. The roofs were covered with zinc sheet. Four complex portals in neo-baroque style - a novel type of historical expression - were located to north, east, south and west. The drawing of the main portal on the south side shows the monumental nature of its colossal dimensions which call to mind the triumphal arches of the 19th century.
The Machine Hall ran parallel to the Industrial Palace. This hall was 800 metres long and 50 metres wide and provided 40,000 square metres of exhibition area. This was where the "brilliant inventions providing useful service and born out of technical progress," i.e. machine functions and operating principles, were to be showcased. As was also the case with the Art Hall and the Agricultural Halls, this was a brick building with framework walls and a roof construction featuring sheet-metal covered main trusses. The central gallery was eight metres higher than the side galleries, creating room for large windows between the pillars. Inside the building, the central gallery and lateral galleries were only separated by two long rows of pillars which, unlike the Industrial Palace, gave an immediate overview of the whole interior space. Two rail tracks ran along the length of the hall to facilitate the transport of heavy machinery. These tracks were linked to six branch tracks via turntables. The form and function of the building was harmonised by dispensing with decorations and monumental portals.
The "jewel" of the exposition architecture was the Kaiser Pavilion praised by architectural critics as a "work by Hasenauer graced by Hellenistic subtlety", as "a charming microcosm of the whole, colossal Exposition Site". Divided into a projecting central structure and two lateral wings with pavilions at the corners, the building resembled a smaller version of the Industrial Palace, albeit more richly decorated and with the finest interior furnishings - as befitted the location of the private rooms of the imperial couple.