Josef Hoffmann (December 15th, 1870 - May 7th, 1956) was an Austrian architect and designer. He was born in Pirnitz in Bohemia (now Brtnice, Czech Republic). Hoffmann studied at the Higher State Crafts School in Brno beginning in 1887 and then worked with the local military planning authority in Wurzburg. Thereafter he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna with Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer and Otto Wagner, graduating with a Prix de Rome in 1895.
In Wagner's office, he met Joseph Maria Olbrich, and together they founded the Vienna Secession in 1897 along with artists Gustav Klimt, and Koloman Moser. Beginning in 1899, he taught at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. With the Secession, Hoffmann developed strong connections with other artists. He designed installation spaces for Secession exhibitions and a house for Moser which was built from 1901-1903. However, he soon left the Secession in 1905 along with other stylist artists due to conflicts with realist naturalists over differences in artistic vision and disagreement over the premise of Gesamtkunstwerk.
With the banker Fritz Warndorfer and the artist Koloman Moser he established the Wiener Werkstatte, which was to last until 1932. He designed many products for the Wiener Werkstatte of which designer chairs, a lamp, and sets of glasses have reached the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and a tea service has reached the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hoffmann's style eventually became more sober and abstract and it was limited increasingly to functional structures and domestic products.
In 1906, Hoffmann built his first great work, the Sanatorium in Purkersdorf. Compared to the Moser House, with its rusticated vernacular roof, this was a great advancement towards abstraction and a move away from traditional Arts and Crafts and historicism. This project served 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 work of Le Corbusier. It had a clarity, simplicity, and logic that foretold of a Neue Sachlichkeit.
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