Josef Hoffmann (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.

Josef Franz Maria Hoffmann

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About his life

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.

Sanatorium Purkersdorf interior

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About his style

Considering everything from the architecture to product design, he was the art director of many influential projects of the modern movement. Hoffmann’s particular style and preference for clear lines was evident in all of Wiener Werkstätte‘s designs in the early 1900s, which emphasized the use of simple shapes such as squares and circles and a combination of black and white. With his sophisticated austerity, Josef Hoffmann quickly became Vienna’s most popular architect, incorporating a revolutionary minimalist style and ditching the floral embellishments and frills of the then popular Art Nouveau.

Stoclet House

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What are his major works?

    • Stoclet House is considered the masterpiece, and built between 1905 and 1911 for the financier and art dealer Adolphe Stoclet in Avenue de Tervueren / Tervurenlaan in Brussels, Belgium.
    • Sanatorium Purkersdorf. It was the first great work of Hoffmann, that he built on the outskirts of Vienna. It was a big step towards abstraction and an escape from traditional arts and crafts and historicism. This project served as an important precedent and source of inspiration for modern architecture that will develop in the first half of the 20th century, like the first works of Le Corbusier. It had the clarity, simplicity and logic that the Neue Sachlichkeit predicted.
Sanatorium Purkersdorf

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      • Palais Stoclet, which Hoffmann was commissioned to build the 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.
    • Austrian pavilions, that Hoffmann designed 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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