Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein died 60 years ago today. Time’s short and I can’t begin to do him (or his remarkable family) justice in the few minutes I have to write this, but wanting to mark the day in some way I remembered I had some appropriate photos in my pre-digital image archive (a shoebox full of photos).
They were taken about ten years ago on a grim winter afternoon in Vienna, in the house that the polymath Wittgenstein co-designed for his sister, Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein, in 1926. Another sister, Hermine, told of the rigour with which Ludwig approached his task:
Ludwig designed every window and door, every window-lock and radiator, with as much care and attention to detail as if they were precision instruments, and on a most elegant scale. And then, with his uncompromising energy, he ensured that everything was carried out with the same meticulous care. I can still hear the locksmith asking him, in connection with a keyhole, ‘Tell me, Herr Ingeniuer, does a millimetre here or there really matter so much to you?’ Even before he had finished speaking, Ludwig replied with such a loud, forceful ‘Yes!’ that the man almost jumped with fright. Indeed, Ludwig had such a sensitive feel for proportions that half a millimetre often mattered to him.
The result was a Modernist white cube of such unornamented austerity that it’s like a splash of ice cold water after the whipped-cream architectural confections that dot central Vienna. It now houses the cultural wing of the Bulgarian Embassy, who are obviously not overly fussed about security – I wandered in the open front door and snapped away without encountering a soul.