Situations of awakening in the 1960s and 1970s.
The figure of the uncompromising, almost obsessive lone fighter, who was able to implement his ideas all alone and only through his own strength and against all odds – like the hero in the 1949 film “The Fountainhead” – is to be countered in this exhibition by another narrative.
Domenig and Huth were by no means the victims; on the contrary, their clients also wanted to communicate the reform movements in their own institutions through a new, contemporary architectural language.
For many born during (or just after) the Second World War, the synthesis of modern art and expressive architectural language (previously still defamed as degenerate) was seen as a programmatic tool of dissociation from the burden of the fascist past, the self-control of post-war society, and the monotony of late-modern post-war architecture. The Styrian art scene was also in a state of awakening, which manifested itself in “trigon 67 – ambiente”. Commissioned by Wilfried Skreiner, the director of the Neue Galerie (an institution of the province), the design of the exhibition architecture by Domenig and Huth became its melancholy symbol (because it was torn to shreds by a stum on the very night of the opening).
This spirit of optimism of the 1960s, however, also affected the Catholic Church, and thus the first important client of Domenig and Huth. After the Second Vatican Council, it propagated an opening towards the parish and parish work, which manifested itself in a re-organization of the liturgy, an educational program and ambitious building projects, such as the Pedagogical Academy in Graz Eggenberg and the new building for the church and the parish center in Oberwart, both on the basis of a competition, as well as the multipurpose hall for the school sisters, a direct commission to Domenig and Huth.
The banking institution associated with the Social Democrats, the Zentralsparkasse der Stadt Wien (Central Savings Bank of the City of Vienna), and the Graz shoe manufacturer Humanic, the first important clients in Domenig’s solo career after his separation from Eilfried Huth, were also distinguished by their remarkable cultural commitment, which not only manifested itself in cultural sponsoring, art collections and avant-garde advertising spots, but also included the design of their stores (after the famous Z Favoriten, Günther Domenig was commissioned to design three more Z stores and implemented a total of 8 Humanic stores).
The 1980s and early 1990s
The young liberal intellectuals from the Catholic Action around the later provincial governor Josef Krainer jr. also saw a dynamic expressive modern architectural language as a sign of renewal. If Josef Krainer jr. had not brought Wolf-Dieter Dreibholz into the state’s building department, there would have been no Styrian model, no offensive in the federal government’s educational buildings, no professionalization of the competition system, no House of Architecture. Günther Domenig’s career would have developed quite differently, as would the entire building culture in Styria. If Wolfgang Schüssel had not been Minister of Building, the large new university buildings in Graz would hardly have been realized.
Last but not least, his assumption of the professorship at the Graz University of Technology is of particular significance: who knows what would have become of him if he had not attained a professorship. In a sense, Günther Domenig reinvented himself a third time. The status of professor opened doors for him in politics and business. The security of the professorship encouraged him to venture into the Steinhaus. It gave him access to students: not only did he recruit staff from the pool, Hermann Eisenköck and Gerhard Wallner also developed into his long-term partners, who had his back. Conversely, the question arises, what would have become of all of us if we had not met him during our studies, had not worked for him and / or had not been allowed to experience his buildings?
Domenig often and gladly staged himself as a rebel, if not even as a bully, but always knew exactly when and to whom he was allowed to present himself in this way and to whom, on the other hand, he had to behave in a caressingly soft manner. The transitions were fluid, as he perfectly served his generation’s longing for the primitive, unadjusted male genius, who could also be extremely adaptable if necessary – without witnesses. Otherwise, it would be impossible to imagine the development of the social network that Günther Domenig supported again and again during the many years of his career – despite his escapades.