what is

Gesamtkunstwerk Architecture

understanding Gesamtkunstwerk Architecture

The notion, which is still most popular in Austria and Germany, was developed during the 19th and early 20th centuries by a variety of European art groups and became a basic principle of modern art. Although it went out of popularity during the postmodern era, the phrase is still used to characterize multimedia installations and pieces today.

early trends

Gesamtkunstwerk’s concepts may be traced back to the Baroque period. Architecture, interior decorating, landscape design, sculpting, and art were all integrated to create a grandiose impact that was mirrored in every detail. 

german romanticism

The Romanticism movement of the early 19th century affected the creation of Gesamtkunstwerk, most notably through the artist and thinker Philipp Otto Runge.

richard wagner

Richard Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk was promoted by intellectually adopting the word and embodying it in his famed operas, to the point that it was commonly credited to him.

arts & crafts movement

The Red House (1859), designed by William Morris and Philip Webb in Southeast London, was an early version of contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk.

art nouveau

Victor Horta’s Hôtel Tassel (1893), a private property created for the Tassel family, was one of the first instances of Art Nouveau. The style was popularized the same year by Paul Hankar’s Hankar House (1893).


Jugendstil, or “Art Nouveau” in German, began in 1896 in Munich. The emphasis on beautiful lines featured a new concept of style that united all the arts into a Gesamtkunstwerk.

vienna secession

The Vienna Secession, in contrast to the conventional and academic order of the arts, promoted an international “total art” that combined the decorative arts with sculpture, painting, and architecture.


Walter Gropius supported the notion of Gesamtkunstwerk while leading the Bauhaus, a school that stressed rigorous instruction in the trades as well as the fine arts.

notable examples

Bayreuth Festival Theater (1876)

Hotel Tassel  (1893)

Ernst-Ludwig-Haus  (1901)

Imperial Hotel  (1923)