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Fellner & Helmer

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Important events

(detail)1873 | foundation of the firm

People

(detail)Hermann Helmer |architect
The phenomenon of the architects Fellner and Helmer would be difficult to capture with only one building. Their work consisted of continual, although somewhat stereotypical, work in terms of style. They placed a great emphasis on achieving the technical-operational needs of theatre buildings. They created a large number of theatres (mainly national theatres) in Central Europe - Austria, Croatia, Romania, the Czech Republic, etc.More theatres

History

The phenomenon of the architects Fellner and Helmer would be difficult to capture with only one building. Their work consisted of continual, although somewhat stereotypical, work in terms of style. They placed a great emphasis on achieving the technical-operational needs of theatre buildings. They created a large number of theatres (mainly national theatres) in Central Europe - Austria, Croatia, Romania, the Czech Republic, etc.

The company had an incredible productivity within the Austria–Hungary Monarchy as well as outside of it. Their mark has transcended the era of their existence and entered “into general knowledge”, not only amongst the specialised public but also with theatre or architecture lovers. Even complete laypeople are aware of the fact that the focal point of the creative work of the Fellner & Helmer studio involved the designing of theatres.

The shared activity of both of these architects dates back to the year 1873. Their cooperation was of a particularly rare kind, as the company did not actually exist from a legal perspective. It was never recorded in the Trade Register or with the industrial chamber. When involved in legal functions, they would function as a private company agreed upon in front of a notary. It was based upon the friendship between the two partners.

Fellner’s father having also been an architect proved to have been a decisive fact for the successful development of the newly established practice. Both authors actually developed a scheme for theatre space in their designs for theatre structures which Fellner senior had already made use of in the design for the Vienna Stadttheatrer. Thanks to this irreplaceable legacy, the company consequently practically obtained a European monopoly on designing of theatres. The studio was in fact so productive that forty-eight theatre buildings were realized according to their projects on the not modestly sized territory demarcated by Hamburg, Zürich and Odessa, out of which thirty were within the territory of Austria–Hungary. Designing theatres in the 19th century actually amounted to a quite precarious existence for architects. It could lead to glory and laurel leaves, as in the case of Gottfried Semper and his Dresden Opera, or to in contrast catastrophe in the form of suicide and premature death, as in the cases of Eduard van der Nüll and August Siccard von Siccardsburg who could not handle the sharp criticism on the part of the public directed against their Vienna Opera.

The contribution of Fellner and Helmer primarily consisted of the novel functional design of the space within the framework of theatre buildings, it having to unite three distinct functions: 1. a space for meeting – the vestibule, 2. a space for gathering – the auditorium and 3. a space for acting – the stage. Previous generations of architects tended to attempt to place these spaces under one roof. Fellner & Helmer, however, had a preference for loosening the firm links between them, gradually thus culminating with a composition with three functionally distinct parts (Volkstheater in Budapest, Neus deutsches Theater in Prague, Volkstheater in Vienna). Apart from the functional arrangement, they were also interested in the symbolic level of the structure: church facades with a columned portico, loges and a coat-of-arms clearly imply that this involves a theatrical structure. This scheme was made use of in various stylistic versions, the Neo-Renaissance (Brno, Liberec, Prague), the Neo-Baroque (Karlovy Vary, Szeged) or also the Art Nouveau (Jablonec nad Nisou, Giessen). They tried to adapt the cosmopolitan style to the ‘national’ conditions.

The theatre buildings created by the Fellner & Helmer studio have been serving their purpose for more than one hundred years, with small adaptations of course. They have at the same time become an integral part of the urban planning structure of the cities in which they were realized. One cannot, of course, state “that they came into being directly for them”, as the design was not always created specifically for a certain city, as can be seen, for example, with the design originally intended for the Free Royal City of Osijek in Croatia, which both architects in a more or less unchanged form transferred and consequently carried out in Klagenfurt.

Although no shared ‘Imperial’ style actually developed in Austria–Hungary, the theatres of Fellner & Helmer studio serve to confirm, along with railway stations, the shared identity of the countries of the former monarchy.

 

Chronological list of the theatres:

 

1. 1870 Brno, Interimstheaterii

2. 1870–1873 Varaždin, Theater und Redoutengebaudeiii

3. 1871–1872 Wien, Stadttheater

4. 1871–1875 Temesvár, Theater

5. 1874–1875 Budapešť, Volkstheateriv

6. 1876–1877 Augsburg, Stadttheater

7. 1881–1882 Brno, Stadttheater

8. 1881–1883 Liberec, Stadttheater

9. 1882–1883 Szeged, Stadttheater

10. 1883–1885 Rijeka, Stadttheater

11. 1884–1886 Karlovy Vary, Stadttheater

12. 1884–1887 Odessa, Stadttheater

13. 1885–1886 Bratislava, Stadttheater

14. 1886–1887 Praha, Neues Deutsches Theater

15. 1887–1888 Wien, Varieté Ronacher

16. 1888 Tata, Schloßtheater

17. 1888–1889 Wien, Volkstheater

18. 1890–1891 Zurich, Stadttheater

19. 1891–1892 Berlin, Theater unter den Linden

20. 1891–1892 Wien, Ausstellungstheater

21. 1892–1893 Salzburg, Stadttheater

22. 1892–1894 Wiesbaden, Hoftheater

23. 1893–1894 Budapešť, Orfeum Somossy

24. 1893–1895 Zurich, Tonhalle

25. 1894–1895 Zagreb, Nationaltheater

26. 1894–1896 Jasi, Hoftheater

27. 1895–1896 Budapešť, Lustspieltheater

28. 1895–1896 Kecskemét, Stadttheater

29. 1896–1897 Ravensburg, Konzerthaus

30. 1898 Mainz, Umbau Stadttheater

31. 1898–1899 Graz, Stadttheater

32. 1898–1899 Berndorf, Kaiser Franz Joseph-Theater

33. 1899–1900 Oradea, Stadttheater

34. 1899–1900 Hamburg, Deutsches Schauspielhaus

35. 1901–1908 Furth, Stadttheater

36. 1903–1904 Torun, Stadttheater

37. 1904–1905 Tschernowzy, Stadttheater

38. 1904–1905 Darmstadt, Umbau Hoftheater

39. 1904–1906 Sofia, Nationaltheater

40. 1904–1906 Kolózvar-Cluj, Nationaltheater

41. 1905 Wien, Modelltheater

42. 1906–1907 Jablonec nad Nisou, Stadttheater

43. 1906–1907 Gießen, Stadttheater

44. 1906–1909 Mladá Boleslav, Stadttheater

45. 1908–1909 Baden, Stadttheater

46. 1909–1910 Klagenfurt, Stadttheater

47. 1909–1910 Cieszyn, Stadttheater

48. 1911–1913 Wien, Konzethaus und Akademiegebaude

 

Literature:

– Hans-Christoph Hoffmann, Die Theaterbauten von Fellner und Helmer. München 1966

– Gerhard M. Dienes (ed.), Fellner & Hellmer: Die Architekten der Illusion. Theaterbau und Bühnenbild in Europa. Graz 1999

 

 

 

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