HOFFMANN, Josef
(b. 1870, Pirnitz, Moravia, d. 1956, Wien)

Biography

Austrian architect, designer and draughtsman. He had a natural gift for creating beautiful forms, and he proceeded to make the most of it during a career that spanned more than 50 years. In this half-century, the conditions and nature of architectural practice changed profoundly, but Hoffmann’s fundamental approach remained the same. He relied on his intuition to produce works that were unmistakably his own in their formal and compositional treatment, yet mirrored all stylistic changes in the European architectural scene.

After attending the State School of Applied Arts in Brno, Hoffmann studied architecture at the Vienna Academy under Otto Wagner. In 1897, he was one of the founders of the Vienna Secession, which he subsequently left in 1905 as part of the Klimt group. As a member of the Wiener Werkstätte, which he founded in 1903 with Koloman Moser, Friedrich Waerndorfer (1868-1939), and Carl Otto Czeschka (1878-1960), and which he headed until 1931, his commissions included a new building for the Westend Sanatorium in Purkersdorf (1904-05), and the Palais Stoclet in Brussels (1905-11).

In 1912, he founded the Austrian Werkbund and, from 1920, was the head of the Viennese group within the German Werkbund. From 1899 to 1937, he taught at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts and became senior building surveyor of the City of Vienna in 1920.

Hoffmann numbered amongst the leading architects of Jugendstil, and exerted, in particular through the Wiener Werkstätte, a profound stylistic influence upon the applied arts of his day. His oeuvre was determined by the concept of the total work of art, and he was correspondingly active in every sphere of applied art (furniture, metalwork, glass, leatherwork, jewellery, textiles). The principle of the repetition of an identical element, in particular the square, characterized his ornamental style. Individual components are thereby interchangeable innovative development in Jugendstil design.