Green Citadel building designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Tyranny of the Straight Line

Long ago, I came under the spell of a wonderful Austrian artist, who went by the name of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. (A rough translation of his name is “PeaceDomain HundredWaters”.)

What can I say about this guy? For me, he was simply: The Greatest.

In addition to being a fascinating painter, he was also an architect and philosopher.

One of his most important ideas was controversial in his day; namely, that the straight line is bad for your mental and spiritual health.

Yep, that’s what he said, and I think he had a point. Our modern experience is filled with an abundance of straight lines and right angles. Together, these two visual elements take us farther and farther away from a connection to organic reality. The result is a kind of alienation… that art tries to heal.

So, yeah — I know this is an extreme position to take, but think about it for a moment. Or better yet, read Hundertwasser’s own words:

“In 1953 I realized that the straight line leads to the downfall of mankind. But the straight line has become an absolute tyranny. The straight line is something cowardly drawn with a rule, without thought or feeling; it is a line which does not exist in nature. And that the line is the rotten foundation of our doomed civilization. Even if there are certain places where it is recognized that this line is rapidly leading to perdition, its course continues to be plotted. The straight line is godless and immoral.

The straight line is the only uncreative line, the only line which does not suit man as the image of God. The straight line is the forbidden fruit. The straight line is the curse of our civilization. Any design undertaken with the straight line will be stillborn.

Today we are witnessing the triumph of rationalist knowhow and yet, at the same time, we find ourselves confronted with emptiness. An aesthetic void, desert of uniformity, criminal sterility, loss of creative power. Even creativity is prefabricated. We have become impotent. We are no longer able to create. That is our real illiteracy.”

Photo: The Green Citadel of Magdeburg, Germany: a building for commercial and residential use, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

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