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October 5, 2006


I first heard of Hundertwasser around 1990 after my friend Andrea came back from a year of study abroad. She showed me pictures of the Kunsthaus in Vienna and it was so cool his name stuck with me until my first visit to that city 14 years later. I visited the Kunsthaus and admired the various works of Hundertwasser the artist, architect, and ecologist, but what really struck me was a scale model for an proposed village called Rolling Hills. The buildings were colorful, irregular, and built into the landscape, with arched green rooves serving as bridges and of course no automobiles. Just a few months ago, I found out that a version of Rolling Hills had been built as a health resort in rural Austria at Bad Blumau. As soon as I saw the pictures I knew I had to visit, so Sarah took me there (along with Dan and Julie) for a one-night birthday stay. It surpassed all expectations. The labyrinthine network of connected indoor/outdoor geothermal pools were a joy to explore, the food was excellent, and the architecture a delight. The curves of asymmetrical buildings flowed into the surroundings, windows were arranged not in a grid but unevenly placed, doors did not match, and everywhere were exuberant colors and handcrafted tilework. We kept asking why more architecture couldn't be this whimsical and imaginative. The answer we came up with was a combination of blind adherence to status quo, an inflated sense of self-importance and rigidity of thought, and cost. Cookie cutter development is simpler, faster, and cheaper, but in the end the costs are greater, both to psyche as well as environment and community when shoddy unimaginative buildings need to be replaced before too long.