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MANZ Bookstore

Foto: © Mike Ranz

For more than 100 years, the MANZ bookstore situated at Vienna’s Kohlmarkt 16 has been supplying all those „in search of the law“ with juridical literature of the highest quality. Every day, around 300 customers enter Austria’s largest bookstore for law, tax and the economy through a portal designed in 1912 by the famous Austrian architect Adolf Loos.

A team of expert booksellers operates a store equipped with state-of-the-art technical infrastructure. More than 20,000 titles are in stock and another 450,000 can be provided within 24 hours. Not only does the bookstore supply all books and journals published by MANZ, but all works available from publishers all over the world.

In addition, MANZ’ booksellers also demonstrate and offer instruction in the use of CD-ROMs and online databases to customers individually. While enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee, customers may also use the Internet-PCs situated in the back of the store for personal research. The bookstore also offers special services such as the compiling of bibliographies, procurement of software and online services, as well as consultation on how to equip new libraries.

Perfect service also implies consistent training of our staff. MANZ has been distinguished with several awards for its eminent achievements in training specialized booksellers. All of these qualities led the independent German business magazine “BuchMarkt“ to name it ”Specialty Bookstore of the Year“ in 2009!

A Jewel of Modern Architecture

Adolf Loos (1870-1933)

Along with the "American Bar”, the bespoke tailor “Knize“ and the Raiffeisen-building on Michaelerplatz, the MANZ bookstore at Kohlmarkt 16 is one of Adolf Loos’ (1870-1933) most outstanding edifices in Vienna’s First District. The prominent architect and polemic critic of architecture designed the bookstore in 1912.
In his famous essay “Ornament und Verbrechen“ (“The crime of excessive ornamentation“) from 1908, Loos locked horns with the exponents of art nouveau and the Wiener Werkstätte, vowing to create a new, functional style in architecture. Today Loos is considered one of the progenitors of modernity.
In the more than 90 years of its existence, the elegant portal has neither lost its appeal nor its functionality: In line with the insights of Freudian psychoanalysis, the portal aims to exercise a subconscious attraction on passersby: Loos set the actual door back in from the front of the building and furnished the entrance with indirect lighting. Considering the number of daily visitors up to the present day, this remarkable architect was absolutely right in his estimation of the effect the entryway would have!

Photo: Copyright by Historisches
Museum der Stadt Wien

Adolf Loos' Front Gate for the MANZ Bookstore in Vienna

by Dr. Christopher Dietz

Foto: © Mike Ranz

The MANZ bookstore is situated on Kohlmarkt, within view of the Habsburg residence, the Hofburg. Together with the Graben, St Stephen’s Square and the Kärntner Straße, the Kohlmarkt forms the heart of Vienna. It lies within the “Ring”, that enormous circular boulevard with its magnificent buildings that encloses the historical city centre like a string of pearls.

Today, “Kohlmarkt” would translate as “Cabbage Market”, but actually it derives its name from the charcoal (“Kohle”) dealers who would pursue their trade here in the Middle Ages. But that was long before the Imperial Palace was built. When the Stein family, who own MANZ up until today, came here in the 1880s, Vienna was blooming and in fact one the world’s most populated cities. People came here in search of education, work, wealth, social security—not much unlike today. But those who came had the same background, the Habsburg Empire with all its diversity: Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Bukovinians, Serbs, Croatians and many more.

The Steins came from Bohemia, not too far north from the capital. Markus Stein, originally an elementary school teacher, had been asked by his German publisher to conduct the business of the newly acquired MANZ publisher and bookstore. The bookstore had been founded by another German, Friedrich Manz, in 1849. After the revolution of 1848, a short period of freedom of press resulted in the formation of many publishing houses, printing presses etc.

Blessed with an unusual talent for his business and a strong affection towards the Arts, Markus Stein led MANZ to a first high in the 1890s. As a “royal bookseller” with a thriving enterprise, he was able to plan and edify the building here on Kohlmarkt 16 in 1892. The whole area had just undergone a big make-over. In 1888, the old “Hofburgtheater” (Royal Theater), predecessor to the world-famous Burgtheater now situated at the Ring, had been closed and demolished in order to make room for a new wing of the Imperial Palace—the one that can still be seen today. St Michael’s Square, which had been a typical intra-urban square with two-storied buildings mostly from the Baroque era, was about to change its face completely.

This was mostly due to one person. Adolf Loos was probably the most controversial architect and architectural critic of his times. Born in Brno in Moravia in 1970, Loos had attended a technical school in Liberec (Reichenberg) and later studied at Dresden University of Technology. He was greatly influenced by US architecture during a longer stay in the 1890s, a friend of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arnold Schönberg and Karl Kraus, a sponsor of Oskar Kokoschka and, most of all, a fervent critic of fin-de-siècle historistic architecture. His fight against mass industrial reproduction of historic precedents was not just an artistic, but also a moral approach. The “usability”—to put it with a modern word—of objects, of architecture itself, was paramount to his work. He objected use of ornaments and decoration for their own sake or for sake of representation. Instead, he valued materials like marble, mahogany, brass, leather etc. very highly. Loos saw himself as adviser to his builder-owners, as a “guide for those unfamiliar with culture”. One of his customers gushed about Loos: “Loos was not my architect, I was not his client—we built the house together.”

Attracted by Loos’ nimbus, the haberdasher Goldman & Salatsch had commissioned him with the planning of a new head office directly vis-à-vis the Hofburg. Little did they know that this building would stir an unprecedented controversy and become one of the icons of modern architecture, today known simply as the “Looshaus” or “Michaelerhaus”. It was mostly the “nakedness” of the upper stories—that make a sharp contrast to the elaborately decorated ground floor—that evoked a scandal in the course of which Loos agreed to at least add flower-boxes to the windows. “House with no eyebrows” it was called by vernacular, due to the complete absence of ledges and architraves. Allegedly, the Emperor kept his curtains closed ever since.

Maybe Markus Stein and his son Richard, the neighbours—and customers—of Goldman & Salatsch, were inspired by the plans for the new building, maybe they liked the buildings Loos had already carried out, like the American Bar or the Café Museum. We do not know. Be it as it may, in 1909 the Steins commissioned Loos with a new front gate for their ground-level bookstore and the refurbishing of the offices in the mezzanine floor. At about the same time, Richard Stein had his children Walter and Lotte and himself painted by Oskar Kokoschka. Richard’s portrait was lost in World War II, the other is kept in the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany.

With their decision for Loos, father and son made a clear statement for the New, for the Avant-garde—a statement that corresponded with their self-perception as open-minded liberals with a liking for the extravagant. It seems to have been rather the older than the younger who voted in favour of the ‘enfant terrible’ Loos. In July 1909 Richard wrote to his father: “By the way, Mr Loos is going to deliver a first sketch in the next couple of days. I have the feeling that your idea to choose him was a good one and the he is not going to do anything crazy ...” Richard finally signed the plan and by that signature initiated the building of one of the most beautiful front gates of Vienna’s first district.

The structure is 6 m wide. The show window, however, achieves a total width of almost twice as much––11 m––by setting back of the actual entrance. This gimmick has become standard vocabulary of any shop designer all over the world. The set back entrance also bears a knock-on effect towards the interior.

The facade is structured by four pillars, an element often to be found with Loos buildings (see American bar, see Looshaus at Michaelerplatz). The earnest static of the black marble surfaces underlines the building’s functional harmony. Loos once said that the facade of a bank should convey the impression that within, the money is safe. Here the seriousness of an academic publisher is mirrored in form and material. The double eagle of the monarchy is displayed four times with pride. Note the “headline” in golden letters. The letters are convex and decorated and reflect the light, especially at night, when it comes from the milk-glassed architrave below.

The “floating” architrave itself grants the structure a semblance of lightness. On the milk-glass, the “subtitle” emerges all the more visible, mostly again at night, when the lights behind it are on. Some staves are missing in “line” two. Originally, this line read “Manz’sche K.u.k. Hof-“ (Royal Bookseller) etc. The letters missing today were probably removed after 1918, when Austria had become a Republic and people were getting rid of remembrances of the monarchy.

The recess was designed in mahogany and brass fittings. The lighting comes indirectly from above and produces a cosy, club-like atmosphere.

Usually, shop facades are subject to change more than anything else: Every change of ownership is a potential threat to existing structures. Due to continuity in the MANZ owners’ structure, Adolf Loos’ front gate remained unchanged. Its beauty, its functionality has prevailed for more than a century.


Position Plan

Copyright: Stadt Wien - ViennaGIS

Visit our bookstore on Kohlmarkt 16, 1010 Vienna!
We are open Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 6.30 pm and Saturday 9.30 am to 5 pm.