Vienna’s Workshops

The motto was modern and qualitative crafts

Wiener Werkstätte Logo

In 1897 a group of artists centred around the maverick Gustav Klimt decided it was time to ring in the age of modernism in Austria: they founded the Wiener Secession. All of life should be art, whereby handcrafts, painting and sculpture were all to be on an equal footing. Six years later the architect and designer Josef Hoffmann, the artist Koloman Moser, and arts patron Fritz Wärndorfer founded the Wiener Werkstätte (the Vienna Workshop) and put these theories into practice. Arts and crafts merged into each other, and the collective produced everyday objects, jewelry and furniture distinguished by their simple and elegant beauty.

“It’s better to work on one object for ten days than to produce ten objects on one day.” Motto of the Wiener Werkstätte

Among the members of the Wiener Werkstätte were a dozen women, which led to the acronym “WW” being derided as “Wiener Weiberwirtschaft” or “Wiener Weiberkunstgewerbe” (“women’s workshop”). The sense of taste of the Werkstätte was criticised as being “artificial and superfluous”, yet its success tells another story: not only in Vienna were furniture, jewelry and textiles produced by the Wiener Werkstätte popular and up-to-the-minute, their creations also enjoyed international success.

Secession building dome

 Furniture exhibition of the Wiener Werkstätten

Until today the Wiener Werkstätte stands for modern design

The legacy of the Wiener Werkstätte still lives on in the 21st century, for example in the Österreichische Werkstätten (Austrian workshops), established in 1948, which carries on the tradition of the Wiener Werkstätte, presenting Jugendstil (art nouveau) pieces, traditional Austrian arts and crafts, and modern design. Unique handmade items are also to be found in other corners of the city. No matter whether it’s an original Vienna snow-dome, a tailor-made shirt, an unusual chandelier or a handmade hat – talented and original craftspeople carry on the motto of the Wiener Werkstätte and work to beautify all spheres of life.


Text: Nina Lucia Groß, Fotos: Christine Wurnig, Bild Möbel in Sammlung im Leopold Museum Wien: Wien Tourismus/Peter Rigaud