The Modernist Icon with Over 1,000 Pieces of Furniture to His Name

The Modernist Icon with Over 1,000 Pieces of Furniture to His Name

By Amanda Dameron
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.

A companion catalog, comprising essays from over two dozen design scholars, provides context for Frank’s creative successes and setbacks, as well as his philosophies and concepts, including  "accidentism," which encouraged the acquisition of furniture pieces one at a time, and combining them with old or existing ones. "The living room in which one can live and think freely is neither beautiful nor harmonic nor photogenic," he wrote in an essay published in the Swedish design magazine Form in 1958. "It is the product of coincidences; it is never finished and can accommodate everything that can fulfill the changing needs of its occupants. I use the living room as an example here because I want to employ it as a means to arrive at an architectural principle. The living room for us is, so to speak, the ultimate goal of architecture because it is the most important component of the house."

The Villa Beer in Vienna, one of Frank’s most important commissions.

Over the course of his career, Frank, who died in 1967 in Stockholm, created a range of structures, from single-family houses with gardens to public housing projects, as well as over 1,000 furniture pieces and 200 textiles, many of which are still in production by the Swedish design house Svenskt Tenn. "A well-ordered house," he wrote, "is to be laid out as a city with streets and roads, which necessarily lead to squares, that are disconnected from traffic, so that one can rest in them." 

A signature element of the Villa Beer is this circular window.

A historical photograph exemplifies Frank's philosophy of mixing textures with modern forms.

Teheran, a textile still available from Svenskt Tenn, created between 1943 and 1945 but not printed until 1991.

Modell A 63, a lacquered bentwood chair designed in 1929 for Thonet-Mundus.

“The rules for the good house as an ideal do not change in principle and have only to be looked at afresh. How does one enter a garden? How does the seating area relate to the door and the window? There are many questions like this which need to be answered, and the house consists of these elements. This is modern architecture.”

Excerpted from The House as Path and Place, 1931, by Josef Frank


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