Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Hoffman Tales

Josef Hoffman Austrian architect and designer of consumer goods was a man ahead of his times. Quite easily the Philippe Starck of his day. With the assistance of other artists and financial backers he helped establish the Wiener Werkstatte which was to last until 1932. He designed many products for the Wiener Werkstätte of which designer chairs, most notably the "Sitzmaschine" Chair, a lamp, and sets of glasses, tea services and such which make up parts of many museums collections on decorative arts.

*Metropolitan New York
Many of his architectural works still survive in Europe; however it is purely in the decorative objects where I think he shines.

His was a purely functional no nonsense approach to design relying on pure form with minimal decoration, where decoration was involved it enhanced the lines and was an integral part of the design with form complementing decoration and vice versa. Before 1910 designs were in the fashionable Art Nouveau style, however with the turn of the century his style radically changed. Geometry took over and objects were now incredibly linear with little decoration and silver predominated.

The “Series B” glassware is one of my all time favourites. This is a prime example of form, and function with decoration complementing it all.

Objects such as cutlery services are strikingly modern considering when they were designed. One can be forgiven for thinking that function was sacrificed over form; however this was not the case. Function and form also complement each other

We can still see the influence that Hoffman has played on consumer design today. How many cheaper versions of the chairs below have we seen!

This was savoir faire ahead of its time!
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