Czech café in Brussels honours architect Josef Hoffmann
A temporary gallery has opened in Brussels to celebrate architect and designer Josef Hoffmann, who was born in Moravia and rose to fame in Vienna. Over the next six weeks, visitors to Café Hoffmann can sit on chairs based on his designs and attend workshops, screenings or lectures dedicated to the famous architect. I discussed his legacy with Adam Štěch, one of the project’s curators:
“Josef Hoffmann was one of the biggest masters of modern, 20th century architecture. He was born in Brtnice near Jihlava in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He went to Vienna to study and he was very lucky, because his professor was Otto Wagner, one of the founding founders of modern architecture.
“Hoffmann was very talented and very soon he became part of the Vienna Secession movement, which was pretty revolutionary at the time because it was interested in using new forms and materials in architecture.
“In 1903 Hoffmann founded, together with his friend Koloman Moser, the Vienna Werkstätte, a very famous design enterprise. They were basically workshops of various skilled craftsman who produced designs created by Hoffmann and his friends.”
I know that Hoffmann’s most famous work is the Stoclet Palace in Brussels, but has he left any traces in Czechia?
“Of course the Palais Stoclet is the ultimate icon of modern architecture, but Hoffmann worked on many other projects and commissions and quite a lot of them are located in Czechia.
“After the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 he became quite dependent on commissions from Czech clients, and he had lots of supporters in this country.
“He designed not only buildings and villas for them. He also designed products for Czech companies such as the famous Moser glassworks and various furniture makers. So I would say he had a pretty close connection to the country of his birth.”
Finally, you designed a temporary cafe in Brussels to honour the famous architect. What can people see there?
“Café Hoffmann is a temporary exhibition space or a kind of a meeting place. It was commissioned by the Czech Centre in Brussels, because in just a few days, a huge exhibition dedicated to Josef Hoffmann will get underway in the Belgian capital.
“So our café Hoffmann is sort of a satellite event. It is located in the centre of the city. It is in fact an old shop that we turned in a café and you can have a coffee here and learn something about Hoffmann’s work in Czechia, which is not that well-known. So I am really happy that we got a chance to present the somewhat hidden part of Josef Hoffmann’s work.”