Welcome To The Republic of Kugelmugel!

Edwin Lipburger didn’t set out to found his own nation. He just wanted to build a house that looked like a ball.

In the early ‘70s, Edwin designed and constructed a spherical house called “Kugelmugel” (“kugel” meaning ball and “mugel” being an Austrian expression for a bump in a field), but the authorities in his home country of Austria wouldn’t grant him a building permit. Instead of just taking his ball and going home, Edwin argued that the house was independent of the geocentre (whatever that means), and therefore the local laws didn’t apply. He declared Kugelmugel to be an independent republic, appointed himself President, issued his own stamps and currency, and stopped paying Austrian taxes.

Kugelmugel_vintage

That last part got him in a bit of trouble. Edwin ended up in prison for ten weeks while facing a sentence of ten months for tax evasion. But he was ultimately pardoned by the President of Austria.

In 1982, the Austrian government moved Kugelmugel to Vienna’s famous Prater park, where it now sits, surrounded by barbed wire. No one is allowed inside the house, and the exterior is adorned with confrontational signage, including a “Scheisse list” detailing Edwin’s grievances with city officials. Its address is “Antifaschismusplatz 2,” which translates to “Anti-Fascism Square No. 2.” (Since the house is the only address on that custom-named square, I’m still trying to figure out why it’s not No. 1.)

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Even though I knew I couldn’t get inside Kugelmugel, I had to at least visit its borders on a trip through Vienna. I was only able to carve out a few minutes at night, after the Prater park had closed, to make my way to Antifaschismusplatz. There in the shadow of the park’s historic Ferris wheel was Edwin’s symbolic middle finger to the Austrian government and the rules of standard architecture. Edwin died in 2015, but Kugelmugel remains standing (with its “Scheisse list” instact), and hopefully will continue to do so for generations to come.

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It was exactly what I expected: a big orange ball surrounded by barbed wire. But I was entranced by what it represents. It is a monument to true independence of spirit. To innovative engineering. To artistic expression. To revolution against the powers that be. And to the utter, petty bitterness that burns inside us all.

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