With an eye that favored strict geometric shapes, Josef Hoffmann was in many ways anticipatory of the cubist movement. His fondness for the square was so well-known that the architect and designer earned the nickname Quadrati-Hoffmann (Square Hoffman) among his peers. Perhaps one of the finer examples of Hoffmann’s aesthetic principles is the Series “B” glasses, produced with the iconic glassmaker Lobmeyr. The elegantly styled, round glass objects are made by blowing the glass into a beechwood mold. The result is a glass with remarkably thin walls, which has been dubbed “muslin” because of its likeness to the eponymous French fabric. The glass is then etched with columns and rows of black lines that lend the pieces a classical feel. The original collection debuted at the Werkbund Exhibition of 1914 in Cologne, Germany to much fanfare. Today it is reproduced by Lobmeyr in the form of wine glasses, decanters, tumblers and champagne coupe glasses.
Hoffmann was among the rare breed of designers who could make anything. Coming to prominence at the turn of the 20th century, the Austrian creative put his mark on everything from lounge chairs and silverware to a modernist sanatorium. Hoffmann undoubtedly owed much of his success to good company—working alongside artists like Koloman Moser and Gustav Klimt, the young Hoffmann founded the Vienna Secession, an organization of artists that held exhibitions of progressive work as a reaction to the prevailing conservatism of the art world.
After leaving the Secession, Hoffmann joined Moser again, this time with a focus on consumer goods. Together they created the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) and began producing objects that elevated quotidian goods into highbrow design. Among his more lasting designs are the much-imitated Kubus armchair and the Rundes Modell cutlery set, which is still produced by Alessi. The products of the Wiener Werkstätte bridged the gap between mass production and handcrafted goods, blazing a path that later designers would follow.
The Series “B” glasses ($1,320-$1,990) are available from Crest & Co.
Images courtesy of Crest & Co