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June 30, 2009

Theophil von Hansen (1813-91)

Baron Theophil Edvard von Hansen (original Danish name: Theophilus Hansen) was a Danish architect who later became an Austrian citizen. He became particularly well-known for his buildings and structures in Vienna, and is considered an outstanding representative of neoclassicism.

After training with Karl Friedrich Schinkel and some years studying in Vienna, he moved to Athens in 1837. It was here that he studied architecture and design, with a concentration and interest in Byzantine architecture. During his stay in Athens, Hansen designed the National Observatory of Athens building and two of the three contiguous buildings forming the so-called “classical trilogy”, namely the Academy of Athens and the National Library of Greece, the third building of the trilogy being the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, which was designed by his brother Christian Hansen. Upon his move to Vienna in 1846, he took up an apprenticeship with noted Austrian architect Ludwig Förster.

In his early works, such as the museum at The Arsenal in Vienna, Hansen was still rather aligned to a more romantic style. In later years, he became the most outstanding representative of Renaissance-inspired historicism (Neorenaissance), which also came to be known as Viennese-style. This style extended into the smallest details of the interior design and partially accepted the courses of a synthesis of the arts.

Along with Förster and many others, Hansen was one of the most important and influential architects of the Viennese RingstraàŸe. His most famous work is the Austrian Parliament building, which was created in the style of an ancient, neo-classic temple, and serves to refer to the Greek beginnings of democracy. Hansen was originally a staunch critic of the Classical style that was taught to him at the Copenhagen Academy. Over the years, however, he came to incorporate Classical elements into his forms. Bauleiter on this project was Hans Auer, who would go on to win the competition for the Swiss Bundeshaus.

In 1884 Emperor Franz Joseph honoured Hansen with a barony in the Austrian nobility and he was since styled “Freiherr von Hansen”.

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