Josef Hoffmann – Austrian Architect and Designer (1870-1956)

Josef Franz Maria Hoffmann was an Austrian architect and designer whose work was important in the early development of Modern Architecture in Europe. He possessed an unmistakable minimal style and was a pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 1900’s.

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Along with other great artistic minds like Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser, Hoffman led the way with the Vienna Secession, a movement that aimed to steer design away from Historicism and create a new style that was all its own.

The ideals of the Vienna Secession eventually led Hoffmann to the founding of the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903.

Using Gesamtkunstwerk (meaning the total work of art) as its mission statement, the Wiener Werkstätte sought out to incorporate all elements of life into one cohesive composition, unifying architecture and interior design.

What is the artistic style of J. Hoffmann?

Considering everything from the architecture of a home to the cutlery that was to be set on the table, he served as the artistic director for many projects influential to the Modern Movement. Hoffmann’s distinct style and favor of clean lines was seen throughout all the Wiener Werkstätte projects in the early 1900’s, emphasizing the use of simple shapes like squares and circles and favoring the combination of black and white. With this refined austerity, Joseph Hoffmann quickly became Vienna’s most popular architect, incorporating a revolutionary minimal style and steering away from the florals and frills of the then popular Art Nouveau.

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Stoclet House (1905-1914), J. Hoffmann

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What are the main works of Josef Hoffmann?

In 1906, Hoffmann built his first great work on the outskirts of Vienna, the Sanatorium Purkersdorf. This was a great advancement towards abstraction and a move away from traditional Arts and Crafts and historicism.

This project served as a major precedent and inspiration for the modern architecture that would develop in the first half of the 20th century, for instance the early work of Le Corbusier. It had a clarity, simplicity, and logic that foretold of a Neue Sachlichkeit.

Hoffmann was commissioned to build the Palais Stoclet in Brussels from 1905 to 1911. Stoclet House was considered a masterpiece of Secession Style, it was an example of Gesamtkunstwerk, replete with murals in the dining room by Klimt and four copper figures on the tower by Franz Metzner.

Hoffmann designed the Austrian pavilions for the 1914 Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne and for the 1934 Venice Biennale. In 1920 he was appointed city architect of Vienna, and in 1924 and 1925 he carried out various housing projects for the city.

Austria Pavillion, J. Hoffmann

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Hoffmann turned out furniture and other home commodities that were both hand crafted and mass-produced.

Main furniture works:

  • Highback Chair (1904);
  • Purkersdorf Poltrona (1904);
  • Sitzmaschine Poltrona (1905);
  • Kunstschau Poltrona (1905);
  • Palazzo Stoclet Poltrona (1905-1910);
  • Fledermaus Chair (1907);
  • 1908 Siebenkugelstuhl Chair (1908);
  • Armloffel Chair (1908);
  • Kubus Poltrona (1910);
  • Club Poltrona (1910);
  • Haus Koller Chair (1911).
Highback Chair, J. Hoffmann, 1904, Museum of Modern Art
Highback Chair, J. Hoffmann, 1904, Museum of Modern Art

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