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Home About Designers Joseph Hoffmann
Joseph Hoffmann PDF Print E-mail
* 15th of December 1870 in Pirnitz, today the Czech Republic
† 7th of May 1956 in Vienna, Austria

The Austrian architect and designer Josef Franz Maria Hoffmann, born into a wealthy family, studies at the Higher State Crafts School in Brno beginning in 1887 and then works with the local military planning authority in Würzburg.
Thereafter, he studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna with Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer and Otto Wagner, graduating with a Prix de Rome in 1895. In Wagner's office, he meets Joseph Maria Olbrich. Together they found the Vienna Secession in 1897 along with artist Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser.
Beginning in 1899, he teaches at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. With the Secession, Hoffmann develops strong connections with other artists. He designs installation spaces for the Secession exhibitions and a house for Moser which is built between 1901-1903. However, he soon leaves the Secession in 1905 along with other stylist artists due to conflicts with realist naturalists over differences in artistic vision and disagreements over the premise of the total art work. Alongside banker Fritz Wärndorfer and artist Koloman Moser, he establishes the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) and designs many products.

In 1900, he travels to Great Britain and is introduced to the Arts & Crafts Movement. His acquaintance with Charles Rennie Mackintosh has an affect on Hoffmann’s former work. Hoffmann's style eventually becomes more sober and abstract and it is limited to increasingly functional structures and domestic products.

In 1903, he designs the Cabinett Chair which punctuates Hoffmann’s love for geometric forms. In this square style he also creates the Kubus Armchair, the Kubus Sofa and the Kubus Three Seat Sofa which are designed for an exhibition in Buenos Aires. His constant use of squares and cubes earns him the nickname "Quadratl-Hoffmann" (little square Hoffmann).
In 1906, Hoffmann builds his first great work at the outskirts of Vienna, the Sanatorium Purkersdorf . This was a great advancement towards abstraction moving away from the traditional Arts and Crafts and historicism. This project serves as a major precedent and inspiration for the modern architecture that would develop in the first half of the 20th century; for instance, the early works of Le Corbusier. It has clarity, simplicity, and logic foretells of new practicality.
Through his acquaintance with Adolphe Stoclet, a wealthy banker and railway financier who sits on the supervisory board of the Austro-Belgium Railroad-Company, he is commissioned to build the Palais Stoclet in Brussels from 1905 to 1911. The Palais belongs to the UNESCO world heritage since 2009.
In 1907, Hoffmann becomes the co-founder of the German Work Federation and in 1912 of the Austrian Work Federation.
In 1927 he designs the Koller Armchair and the Koller Two Seat Sofa.

Between 1938 and 1945, the palace of the imperial German Embassy is rebuilt after following his plans; the building is used as an off-site location for the foreign office and as “House of Wehrmacht”.
After World war II Joseph Hoffmann takes point of several official functions, so as Austrian chief commissioner of the Biennale in Venice and the direction in the senate of arts.
Joseph Hoffmann dies on the 7th of May 1956 in Vienna. The city of Vienna dedicates him a tomb in his honour at the famous Vienna central cemetery. In Purkersdorf, the Joseph Hoffmann Street is named after him.