One Hit Wonders

Publication in “Nevertheless Magazine for Art & Architecture – The Passion Archive” (Issue 8)

Year: 2014
Research Team: Mark Neuner
Graphics: Mark Neuner, Atelier Olschinsky

The phenomenon of a One Hit Wonder is first and foremost known in the field of Music. Even if a hit is said to be a “once in a lifetime” event that needs a “magic moment” and cannot be reproduced, the band The KLF had a different opinion. In their publication “The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way)” they explain to people how to produce this “magic moment” in order to land a Number One hit.
But what about architecture? Is there any such category? If there is, can you find a One Hit Wonder in Austrian architecture, or better still – a manual – that one could do this?


©Die Gestalten: German audiobook cover of "The Manual"


Following the instructions in “The Manual”, which are based on the KLF’s own Number One – sample, steal, go for the hit – it is supposed to be extremly simple to land such a hit. Among others, the Austrian group Edelweiss created a Number One by explicitly following these rules for their single “Bring me Edelweiss”.


©Miltiades Polykrates: CD Cover of "Raumschiff Edelweiss"


One Hit Wonders in Architecture

In architecture, the category One Hit Wonder can also be used – describing buildings designed by architects who were unable to either build another one in the same league or to build anything else at all.

A famous architectural One Hit Wonder in Austria is the “UNO City”. The unknown Austrian architect Johann Staber, who initially did not win the competition, but was later selected by the government, never built anything else of renown – a genius UNO hit wonder.


©Atelier Olschinsky & Mostlikely Architecture: LP Cover "UNO City"


An example on the international level is “Grande Arche” by Johan Otto von Spreckelsen in Paris. He is known in history as the architect of two small churches and one huge arch.


©Atelier Olschinsky & Mostlikely Architecture: LP Cover "Grande Arche"


The Era of Logic

An architectural One-Hit-Wonder not necessarily always happens by chance. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who felt he had achieved everything in philosophy, turned to architecture and created a manifestation of his worldview with the “Wittgenstein House”. He then stated that this was “all there was to be said”  and never occupied himself architecturally after. Only later in life he realised that good architecture cannot be developed through pure logic alone, but needs the inexplicable and the irrational.


©Atelier Olschinsky & Mostlikely Architecture: LP Cover "Wittgensteinhouse"


Talking about music is like dancing about architecture

As different as architecture and music are – music as immaterial, ephemeral and invisible, architecture as material, constant and omnipresent – the laws underlying their One Hit Wonder are also very different. The more depth and challenging music is, the more likely it will leave the popular arena, and the possibility of a One Hit Wonder.

In architecture the secret recipe seems to be more likely a universal vision that finds its expression in an uncompromising attitude towards life. If this vision can be maintained and refined in the arduous process of construction, so that its manifestation and expression can be experienced in the building, a One Hit Wonder is certain.


©Atelier Olschinsky & Mostlikely Architecture: LP Cover "Wotruba Kirche"