Josef Hoffmann, Villa Ast, Austria, 1909/11
Josef Hoffmann was a Czech and Austrian architect and designer. He designed furniture, fabrics, silver and metal objects, jewelry, glass and ceramics. He was an important person of the Art Nouveau movement in Vienna and the founder of the Wiener Werkstätte. His work is characterized by purity of lines and geometric shapes. As an architect he dealt primarily with the design of family villas. He always strived to make the house not only a building, but also harmoniously created interiors. 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 on the outskirts of Vienna, the Sanatorium Purkersdorf .
Villa Ast built by Josef Hoffmann for the building contractor Eduard Ast from 1909-1911. The two-storey house, resting on a pedestal, is strikingly different from the architect’s earlier buildings and is the highlight of his work in Vienna. The simple structure has a classical look (windows with simple decor and characteristic wavy facade). The cubic, almost unadorned house looks like a layered structure with its fine plaster architecture, and in front of the portal is an open porch with a Bacchatinnenfries by Anton Hanak.” In the course of the extension of 1934 Hoffmann created another frieze in the upper storey by surrounding, almost square Window.”
The painter Carl Moll acquired the villa, which had been exclusively furnished by Josef Hoffmann for his stepdaughter Alma, the wife of Gustav Mahler, who lived here until 1938, most recently with her third husband, Franz Werfel (second husband Walter Gropius). The villa was at that time a spiritual and cultural center of Vienna:Alban Berg, Egon Friedell, Gerhart Hauptmann, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Thomas Mann, Hans Pfitzner, Arthur Schnitzler, Arnold Schoenberg and Bruno Walter were here. Returning from exile in 1945, Alma Mahler-Werfel sold the property by 40,000 Swiss francs.
Giorgio Salama Robino