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Graz Town Hall

The city Hall of Graz ca. 1930. 
The city Hall of Graz ca. 1930.The city Hall of Graz ca. 1930.

The first Town Hall of Graz, the "old chancellery", was built around 1450 in Judengasse. However, it proved to be too small, and so around 1550 a new, larger Town Hall was built on the very site where the present Town Hall now stands. Due to the city's economic situation at the time of construction, the new building, built in a Renaissance style, was simple and inornate, its only ornamentation being the blocks of stone on the corners. There were bars on the large windows of both of the lower storeys, as the Town Hall was also the site of the main police station. The city's prison was situated on the third floor of the building, although its windows had no bars, however they were very small. A loggia rested on columns projected out above the portal, and on top of the roof was a ridge turret with a lantern. The Town Hall clock, visible from three sides, was added in 1609. On the front of the building, to the right of the entrance, there was the "City Hall Arcade", and here merchants could set up shop and put their wares on sale.

New Building

The old Town Hall was razed to the ground in 1803 and then rebuilt between 1805 and 1807 to plans by Christoph Stadler. The new construction cost 150,000 gulden and the town raised this money by means of a special new wine tax. However, the Classicist style of the new building was less than popular many inhabitants and led to a certain discontent among the people of Graz.

Extension of the Town Hall

Building work on an extension to the Town Hall started in 1869, and the cornerstone for the new sections was laid in 1887. From the plans of the architects Alexander Wieleman and Theodor Reuter, we can see that new building's ground floor as well as the first floor of the east and north wings incorporated much of the old Classicist building. The large cupola of the Town Hall was also added at this time. Several adjacent buildings were purchased for the extension. However, the original plans were never fully realized. For the owners of the houses at 6 and 8 Landhausgasse refused to let their houses be demolished. Indeed, an inspection of the present inner courtyard clearly reveals this fact: the two houses are still standing, extending deep into the Town Hall Block and making a definite impact on the overall design of the building.

The Town Hall Today

Today the Town Hall is a stately, four storey building with a façade in Late Historicist – Old German style. The south section of the building dates back to 1889, and the main section to 1893. The side of the Town Hall facing the square has a central risalit covered by a cupola, a part of the building which projects and divides the façade, and small corner towers. The façade is richly ornamented with, among other decorations, a series of niche statues that depict important Austrians (for example, the Habsburg emperors) and the four great allegories of "Art", "Science", "Commerce" and "Industry".

Design of the Façade

The design of the façade on the top two floors was first simplified in 1922. Then the ornate series of statues, designed by the artists Hans Brandstetter, Karl Lacher, Karl Peckary, Emanuel Pendl and Rudolf Vital, was all but removed in 1957. The present whereabouts of these culturally and historically important works of art is sadly unknown. All that remains is two sandstone statues (lansquenets) by Hans Brandstetter (1892) and a sandstone bust by Karl Lacher which can still be found on the west façade over today´s portal.

The exterior façade of the Town Hall was renovated from 1966 to 1967. A public opinion poll showed that the people of Graz were in favor of preserving the City Hall in its old familiar form instead of returning to the Classicist forms.

The City of Graz invested over 4,5 million Euros into the most recent Town Hall renovations, both interior and exterior, which took place in 1999 and 2000.

At that time, the façade statues that had been removed were resculpted again according to the original design, and replaced so that since 2001, "Art", "Science", "Commerce" and "Industry" have once again taken up their rightful places atop our Town Hall.

Interior Decoration

Several works of art and architecture in the interior of the Town Hall are worth mentioning. To the left of the main entrance, there is the 1971 secco painting by Adolf Osterider depicting Town Hall over the course of time. On the staircase, we find a commemorative plaque with bronze relief for Vinzenz Muchitsch by Wilhelm Gösser. On the first floor in the wedding hall (Trauungssaal), there is a carved "Mother with Child" (1925/1926) by Hans Mauracher as well as a brass Styrian panther (1955) by the same artist. The coffered ceilings and a remarkable tiled stove in Old German style on the second floor of the east and north wings are also worth a look. The assembly hall of the City of Graz Council is embellished with an intricate and elegant coffered ceiling from the time of the Town Hall´s construction. In the hallway of the main wing, there is a secco painting by J. Haring and numerous portraits of Graz mayors, including some by the painters Sergius Pauser and Leo Scheu. Finally, on the top floor of the south wing, one finds the monumental secco mural "Graz 1635" (according to Matthäus Merian) painted by Paul Scholz in 1980.

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