Josef Hoffmann- The Founder Of Modern Architecture

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Josef Franz Maria Hoffmann, aka Josef Hoffman, was an Austrian architect and designer. His work was influential 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 1900s. Josef Hoffmann studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria, under Art Nouveau architect Otto Wagner, whose functional, modern architecture theories also influenced his works, and in 1896 he joined his office. He considered everything he created a work of art. He also brought a new level of elegance and simplicity to the domestic and built environment.

Early life

Josef Hoffmann designs revolutionized the modern architecture.

Josef Franz Maria Hoffmann was born December 15, 1870 in the Moravian village of Pirnitz (Brtnice), to Josef Franz Karl Hoffmann and Leopoldine Tuppy. Hoffmann grew up with three sisters and nicknamed Pepo. Josef Franz Karl Hoffmann was the town mayor and also a successful businessman. He built a sizable fortune through the local cotton industry, ensuring the family’s well-being. The local Moravian folk traditions strongly influenced Hoffmann. His family’s interest in the Biedermeier style would influence his development as an architect and designer.

The school was a challenge for Hoffmann. At the age of nine, he transferred to the local gymnasium in Iglau (Jihlava), where Adolf Loos was also a student. Hoffmann found the instruction strict. He failed his fifth year twice, an experience that left him full of “shame and agony.” By contrast, he enjoyed the time spent with the son of an architect working on local building sites. This is how he discovered his calling. Hoffmann’s father wanted him to pursue a career in law, he also permitted his son to enroll in 1887 at the Architecture Department at Senior State Commercial and Technical School. Loos was at the school at the same time. In 1891, Hoffmann passed his final exam and enrolled in a practical course at the Military Building Office in Würzburg, Germany.

Life in Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts

Vienna Secession Reticulated Silver and Glass Flower Basket Vase by Josef Hoffman

In 1892 Hoffmann applied to Vienna’s Akademie der bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts). He enrolled in the design university and moved to Vienna, where he remained for the rest of his life. In October, he enrolled in an elite class of architecture led by Karl von Hasenauer, one of the leading proponents of the historicist style in Vienna at that time. After Hasenauer died in 1894, Otto Wagner took over his class. Throughout his lifetime, Hoffmann would repeatedly give credit to the influence of Wagner on his work. Along with Koloman Moser and others, Hoffmann was a founding member of the Siebner Club in 1895 (Club of Seven). The members discussed current trends in architecture and art. In 1895, Hoffmann received a fellowship, the Rome Prize, and spent time traveling in Italy.

Vienna’s School of Applied Arts

He returned to Vienna in 1897, Hoffmann started working at the Vereinigung bildender Künstler Österreichs (Vienna Secession). Josef was an instrumental figure within the group. He contributed to its publication Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring) and frequently designed exhibitions for the Secession.

In 1899, Hoffmann became a professor at Vienna’s School of Applied Arts, a position he left his retirement in 1936. He taught in the departments of architecture, metalwork, enameling, and applied art. Many artists who collaborated with Hoffmann were fellow professors or distinguished students from the school over the coming years.

For the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, Hoffmann designed the rooms for the Kunstgewerbeschule and the Secession. This same year, he also visited England. He met the Scottish architect, designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh and visited the C. R. Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft workshops.
In 1900, Hoffmann began designing homes for a planned artists’ colony in the Hohe Warte suburb of Vienna. Two of the first built were a double house for Moser and Moll. With these commissions, Hoffmann also began to pursue his ideal of a unified integration between architecture and interior elements, which is termed a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art.

Vienna Workshops

Hoffman’s designs established rules for Modern Architecture.

The Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) was founded in May 1903. Hoffmann and Moser served as co-artistic directors, and the textile industrialist Fritz Waerndorfer provided financial support. Moreover, the Wiener Werkstätte was established as a collaborative association between the public, designers, and craftsmen. Hoffmann and Moser placed emphasis on quality and focused on goods for the home. Their goal included two things: to elevate the craftsman’s role and give entire worth to artistic inspiration.

One of the essential architectural projects received by Hoffmann came through art critic Berta Zuckerkandl, who he met through the Secession. She recommended him to her brother-in-law Viktor Zuckerkandl who wanted a modern design for the Purkersdorf Sanatorium. Built-in 1904, it became one of the highlights of Hoffmann’s architectural achievements and represented a true Gesamtkunstwerk. A well-designed rest spa for the wealthy. The furnishings were also amazing and were all created by the Wiener Werkstätte.

After Vienna Secession

Hoffmann’s emergence as an architect can be recognized following his engagement with the classical and folkloric architecture of Italy.

In 1905, Hoffmann was one among the group around Klimt that left the Vienna Secession. In 1905, he received the commission to design the Palais Stoclet in Brussels, which completed in 1911. It was the pinnacle of an architectural career that spanned over fifty years. Moreover, Hoffmann was responsible for all exterior structures. The interiors designed with a collaborative team that included Gustav Klimt, George Minne, Carl Otto Czeschka, Michael Powolny, Leopold Forstner, and Franz Metzner. It also became one of the most complete examples of the Gesamtkunstwerk ideal ever created. The furnishings were done by the Wiener Werkstätte.

Hoffmann undertook other significant architectural projects concurrent or just after his work on the Palais Stoclet. Moreover, a partial list would include residences for these families: the Brauner (1905-06), Beer-Hoffmann (1905-06), Wittgenstein (1906), Ast (1909-11), and Primavesi (1913-15). To complete architectural projects, Hoffmann received commissions to design interiors for domestic and commercial spaces. One of the most significant projects was for the Kabarett Fledermaus, which opened in 1907. Hoffmann provided the architectural backdrop. The interiors were a collaborative effort with various artists, many of whom also worked for the Wiener Werkstätte.

His successful career at a glance

Stoclet House , Brussels designed by Josef Hoffman

Throughout his career, Hoffmann was also actively involved in exhibition design with the Secession, museums, and international fairs. Among the most critical include: the Austrian Pavilion for the International Art Exhibition in Rome in 1911, the Austrian Pavilion for the 1914 Deutsche Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne, the Austrian Pavilion at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and the Austrian Pavilion for the Biennale in Venice built-in 1934.

He considered himself first and foremost an architect, and his design legacy found influence today. His formal inventiveness was endless. This is borne out by his artistic record. Moreover, the Hoffmann catalog raisonné of his architectural work by Eduard Sekler documents approximately 500 commissions, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art (MAK) alone has over 5,000 Hoffmann drawings in its collection. This proves that being a designer helped him grow as an architect.

Over the course of his career, he also designed for these firms among others: Jacob & Josef Kohn (furniture), Johann Lötz (glass), Joseph and Ludwig Lobmeyr (glass), Johann Backhausen & Söhn (textiles). His works also include: Johann Jonasch (furniture), Jakob Soulek (furniture), Wiener Porzellanmanufakture Augarten (porcelain), Alexander Sturm (metalwork), and Würbel & Czokally (metalwork). Moreover, he worked in metalwork design and turned his attention to textile and fashion design.

Josef Hoffmann’s death

Josef Hoffmann concerned himself mainly with housing projects. His eighty-fifth birthday took place at the Palais Stoclet and died after a stroke in Vienna in May 1956.

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