OLBRICH, Josef Maria
(b. 1867, Troppau, d. 1908, Düsseldorf)


Austrian architect, interior designer and craftsman. He Olbrich studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Vienna before joining the workshop of Art Nouveau architect Otto Wagner. In 1897, he became one of the founding members of the Vienna Secession Movement, which represents the beginning of "Modernism" in Austria, and he designed their exhibition building.

In 1899 he practised as an architect and a teacher in Darmstadt, Germany. He worked there for the construction of the Artists' Colony of Mathildenhöhe, where he designed the workshops, exhibition hall and houses. In 1907, Olbrich founded the German Werkbund in Munich, Germany.

During a brief career of little more than a decade, he produced highly influential work that typified the formal freedoms emerging from the anti-historicist movement in fin-de-siècle Vienna and pointed the way to Expressionism and Modern Movement.

The buildings he designed to create total works of art are functional, massive and dynamic at the same time; their traditional construction is enriched by original decorative elements and monumental sculptures. The façades are divided into different plans by light structures, arcades or multi-shaped windows. The designs of his furniture, crafts work and metalware, such as the famous candlestick, are expressive, rigorous and simple, decorated with original geometric details and harmonious forms.

Olbrich's most important works were produced in Darmstadt: the development of the Mathildenhöhe (1900), the Ernst Ludwig House (1899-1901), and the Wedding Tower (1905-08). Other important buildings include the Secession Building in Vienna (1897-98) and the Tietz Department Store in Düsseldorf (1907-09).