Hans Hollein was born in Vienna, Austria in 1934. From his earliest school days, he manifested a talent for drawing. Although he chose architecture as his profession, his works of art are in many public and private collections around the world.
He has been described as far more than an architect—artist, teacher, author, and a designer of furniture and silverware. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, in Vienna in 1956. He was awarded a Harkness Fellowship which afforded him the opportunity travel in the United States. He undertook graduate work at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and completed his Master of Architecture degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1960. During those same years, he was able to meet and study with some of the architects he most admired, including Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra.
It is characteristic of his curiosity and humor that when he learned there are seven towns or cities in the United States, all bearing the name, "Vienna," he took the time to visit all of them. This was while touring the country in a second-hand Chevrolet.
After working in architectural firms in Sweden and the United States, he settled in Vienna where his first commission in 1965 was what Architectural Forum magazine described as "even smaller than most first commissions: a shop and showroom 12 feet wide for a candle maker." They added however that "it brought him an enthusiastic client and a prominent location on a fashionable Vienna street."
Known as the Retti Candleshop, Hollein's accomplishment of this minor commission brought him international attention, including the $25,000 Reynolds Memorial Award. It was the first time in a decade that the award had gone to a work that cost less than the prize.
In 1970, he won praise for his first commission in New York, the Richard Feigen Gallery. The February, 1970 issue of Progressive Architecture headlined an article about the building, "Architectural Faberge," and further that Hollein's design combined "an architect's sense of space with a goldsmith's sense of craft to produce an exquisite ambiance for art."
The same article called Hollein "one of the few contemporary architects with the skill, the wit, and the financial backing to recreate the intimate luxury of Versailles' private chambers," and harked back to the Retti Candleshop as "Hollein's earlier masterpiece." Not surprisingly, other commissions in this very specialized genre of shops followed, including two jewelry stores for Schullin in Vienna, which again gained international acclaim. More recently, he completed a retail shop for the Beck Company in the Trump Tower in New York.
Gradually, his numerous proposals and studies yielded other types of structures as well, from single family residences, to apartment houses, offices and museums. In 1978, he completed a Tourist Office in Vienna. By 1982, he had completed the Municipal Museum Abteiberg, in Monchengladbach near Dusseldorf. This major work brought further acclaim and additional opportunities for projects of a similar nature. The same year that he was named Pritzker Laureate, he won two international competitions, one for a Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt and another for a Cultural Forum in Berlin. Also in that same year, he designed a major exhibition on Viennese culture, entitled "Dream and Reality," which opened in Vienna and then made several other stops around the world. One of his best-known exhibits was for the opening of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, "MANtransFORMS," on the aspects of design.
Hollein has recently proposed, according to Bill Lacy, secretary to the Pritzker Prize Jury "an audacious subterranean design for a branch of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York for Salzburg. With its hybrid manmade and natural forms of sheer cliff like rooms and with spectacular light shafts, Hollein has once again demonstrated his penchant for the elegant and the dramatic."