Max Fabiani was an Italian-Austrian-Slovenian architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best known for his contributions to the Viennese ‘Secession’ style, which he helped introduce to Slovenia along with architects Ivan Vancas and Ciril Metod Koch. Born to a cosmopolitan, trilingual family, he brought his architectural talents to various areas of the former Austrian Empire, contributing to the Viennese cityscape as well as the architecture of cities and towns that would later be part of Slovenia and Italy. Given the years of his working life, some of Fabiani’s commissions coincided with the need to rebuild cities following the two World Wars. He also designed memorials to commemorate fallen soldiers. Aside from his work as an architect, Fabiani also briefly tried his hands in politics. He was made mayor of Staniel, his hometown, during the 1940s. As a result of his position as well as his fluency in German, he was able to stave off the occupation and destruction of his village during wartime. Fabiani is widely credited for his influential use of the Vienna Secession style, especially in Slovenian architecture. He also served several academic posts, including a professorship at the Technischen Hochschule in Vienna. In later years, he taught art history at a high school in Gorizia
Childhood & Early Life
Fabiani was born on 29 April 1865 in Kobdil bei Staniel, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and part of present-day Slovenia.
He was born into a well-to-do and cosmopolitan family - his father was a Friulian latifundist of Bergamesque ancestry and his mother a Triestine aristocrat with Tyrolean roots.
As a child, he grew up speaking Italian with his family, Slovene with his peers and German in school.
Along with his 13 siblings, he attended elementary school in Kobdilj, followed by Realschule, a form of secondary school, in Ljubljana.
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He moved to Vienna to pursue a degree in architecture at the Vienna University of Technology, completing his studies in 1889.
Between 1892 and 1894, he used a scholarship to travel throughout Europe and Asia Minor over the course of nearly three years, including stays in Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium and England.
Following his travels, he returned to Vienna and joined the studio of architect Otto Wagner, remaining with Wagner until 1900.
For his first major plan, he was commissioned to provide urban planning for Ljubljana in the aftermath of the city’s 1895 earthquake, a bid he won due to his familiarity with the city as well as his modern designs.
In 1903 and 1904, he was commissioned to design the national halls in Gorizia and Trieste, largely on the basis of his designs for Ljubljana.
Between 1910 and 1917, he held the position of a professor of ornament and interior decoration at the Technical University of Vienna.
In 1917, he was appointed as a professor at the University of Vienna, a position he retained even when offered a teaching position at the University of Ljubjlana.
In the 1920s, he was central to a reconstruction project, which rebuilt monuments in areas of Italy that had been destroyed during the First World War, mainly along the length of the Julian March.
Between 1924 and 1927, he took a position as an art history teacher at a high school in the town of Gorizia.
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In 1935, he was appointed mayor of Stanjel by the National Fascist Party, a position he held throughout the Second World War, during which time he was instrumental in sparing his town from destruction.
Between 1938 and 1962, Fabiani served as an inspector for the Italian cultural heritage foundation, assessing those buildings and monuments deserving of funding toward their preservation or rehabilitation.
In 1944, Fabiani returned to Gorizia and spent the rest of his life there.
In 1907, he completed the Mladika Palace in Ljubljana, one of the most architecturally acclaimed elements of his urban planning for Ljubljana in that year.
In 1900, he designed the Palace Artaria, one of Vienna’s most emblematic buildings, which serves today as a publishing house.
In 1902, he designed the Palace Urania in Vienna, a landmark of the Vienna Ring Road, which continues to serve today as a public educational institute and observatory, following extensive rebuilding after the Second World War.
In 1904, he designed the National Hall in Trieste, one of his many works that were used for civic and governmental purposes.
In 1919, he was responsible for the general urban development plan of Monfalcone, Italy.
In 1937, he designed the ‘Tower of Memory’, a memorial to Italian soldiers fallen in the First World War, which was erected in Gorizia, Italy, the town where he lived the final days of his life.
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Awards & Achievements
In 1915, he received the Prize of the Community of Vienna for an Exceptional Construction, for his work on the Geschaftshaus in the sixth District of Vienna.
In 1917, he was made a knight of the Red Eagle Order (‘Ritter des Roten-Adler-Ordens).
On 10 September, 1951, he was awarded the Italian Order of Merit for Culture and Art.
At age of 80, he was honored with a ‘Golden Doctorate’ by the Vienna University of Technology.
He was also awarded knighthoods and honors from various orders, including being named a knight of the Franz-Josefs-Orden, the Ehrenlegion and the Vatikanischen Verdienst-Ordens.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Francesca di Rochi but the couple later separated. Together, they had two children - Carlotta and Lorenzo. Lorenzo went on to become a well-known agronomist and journalist.
He died on August 18, 1962 in Gorizia, northern Italy.
The highest Slovenian award for excellence in urban planning has been named after his famous architect since 2008.
A widely circulated but unlikely myth regarding Fabiani is that a young Adolf Hitler once briefly worked in his architecture firm in Vienna.
In Vienna’s Simmering District, the street Fabianistrasse was so named in 1984 as a tribute to Fabiani. There are numerous streets bearing his name in Ljubljana and Gorizia