Architect, co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese Workshop) and groundbreaking furniture designer – Josef Hoffmann is recognised as a pioneer of the modern design movement that emerged in Europe in the late 19th century. And his work continues to captivate design aficionados today – his iconic Kubis armchair, distinguished by its sharp gridded lines and cubist form, is just as striking and relevant now as it was when it was first released in 1910. In celebration of Hoffmann’s 150th birthday, we explore this extraordinary designer’s life and legacy.
Born in Brünn (now Brno in the Czech Republic) in 1870, Josef Hoffmann studied at the State Crafts School and later the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Here, he studied with architect Otto Wagner and won the distinguished Prix de Rome in 1895. Alongside architect Joseph Maria Olbrich and artists Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser, he founded the Vienna Secession – a group of architects, designers and artists who aimed to bring a progressive new breed of art to Viennese audiences that rejected the extravagant ornamentation of the day in favour of radical simplicity.
Hoffmann founded the Viennese Workshop in 1903 – a design cooperative that produced exquisitely crafted furniture and homewares. Here, he was a major designer and produced a large number of significant works that would go on to influence many styles, including Bauhaus and Art Deco.
Hoffmann believed that good design is a way of life and sought to integrate into every aspect of daily life – a belief that would later become a fundamental principle of modernism.
As testament to his enduring design legacy, several of Hoffmann’s pieces are still being produced by Wittmann Workshops today. Wittmann and Hoffmann share a similar design ethos; a commitment to traditional values and an openness to modernity that results in furniture that is at once boldly new and timeless in its appeal. Hoffmann’s original vision is a defining influence at Wittmann Workshops and a source of inspiration for every handcrafted piece they produce.
Another characteristic of Hoffmann’s work is the simplicity of its construction that enables it to be perfectly reproduced using modern production methods, which ensures that every piece produced by Wittmann is perfectly formed down to the finest detail.
In celebration of Josef Hoffmann’s timeless designs, the Wittmann Kubus Sofa is currently on display and for sale in Australia for the first time exclusively at DOMO.