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Hans on The Couch

In recent years, we have often read and heard about Hans Hollein as one of the European radical architects working in the sixties. Still, he is rarely considered as what he has become after the “radical years”: one of the most creative architects of late 20thcentury with an impressively large portfolio of built projects. Such a lack of deepening is partly understandable considering that, in Hollein’s work, the revolt against tradition tends to prevail over the definition of a systematic corpus of doctrines and methods. Given such a background, it is not surprising to learn that the main historiographies – with rare, though important exceptions – of 20thcentury architecture tend to either exclude him or consider him as a minor figure1. The most explicit case among these is Manfredo Tafuri’s and Francesco Dal Co’s “history of contemporary architecture”. In fact, they mention Hollein just once, and as follows: “Senza il realismo pop di Venturi non si capirebbero […] le dissacrazioni del viennese Hans Hollein, dietro le quali occhieggia il lettino di Freud2”; that is to say: Hollein is an architect who has to be understood by comparison to Venturi, otherwise he would appear as one who needs to go to Sigmund Freud’s couch. 

Notwithstanding Tafuri’s and Dal Co’s analysis, this short text is about two main issues. The first one is the need of analysing Hollein’s original contribution to contemporary architecture, while the second one is to pose questions in relation to architecture’s historiography and its analytical methods. Still, in order to do so, it seems reasonable to begin where Tafuri and Dal Co stopped: with a therapy session.

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Giacomo Pala, “Giacomo Pala. Hans on the Couch”, in


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