Josef Frank and Oskar Wlach
Architect Oskar Wlach, four years older than Josef Frank, began collaborating with Frank as early as the beginning of the 1920s – as a fellow student, at the Wiener Werkbund, in the Vienna Circle and Siedler movement, and later also with Haus & Garten.
Josef Frank joined the studio collective led by Oskar Wlach and Oskar Strnad in 1913. The collective realized several buildings, and Frank and Wlach continued to design and build numerous projects together even after Strnad’s departure.
The apex of the collaboration between Frank and Wlach was Margarete and Julius Beer’s home on Wenzgasse – Villa Beer.
Within their partnership, it appears that Wlach devoted himself primarily to designing the interior, creating a pleasing mixture of elegance, comfort, and hominess. Frank and Wlach carried on the legacy of Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos, and their work is widely considered to have significantly contributed to the second wave of Viennese Modernism.
Buildings by Frank and Wlach together
1913–1914 Haus Scholl, Vienna 19, Wildbrandtgasse 3
1914 Haus Straus, Vienna 19, Wildbrandtgasse 11
1923–1925 Winarsky-Hof, Vienna 20, Stromstrasse 36–38
1923 David Löbel House, interior and garden design, Vienna 13, Geylinggasse 13
1929–1931 Villa Beer, Vienna 13, Wenzgasse 12
1931–1932 Rosa Jochmann Hof Vienna 11, Simmeringer Hauptstrasse 142–150
1935 Haus Bunzl, Vienna 19, Chimanistraße 18
As well as numerous apartment and home interiors.
Prof. Dr. Josef Frank
15 July 1885 – 8 January 1967
According to the Austrian encyclopedia of architects (Österreichisches Architektenlexikon), Josef Frank, together with Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann, is a leading figure in the “second wave of Viennese modernism” and “moderate modernism”, both movements that continued to have a global impact well into the second half of the twentieth century.
Born in Baden bei Wien in 1885, Josef Frank studied architecture at the Vienna University of Technology from 1904–1908 under Professors Carl König and Max Fabiani. As early as mid-1910, before graduating with a doctorate in engineering, he was hired to design various exhibition spaces. Among other things, he designed home furnishings as well as exhibition furniture for the Museum of East Asian Art in Cologne. These early interior designs made it clear that Frank had his own personal conception of modernism. He did not want to design architectural spaces bounded by the laws of symmetry and rhythm. Rather, he tried to fracture the connection between architecture and interior by placing pieces of furniture in the rooms seemingly at random, dispensing with paneling, instead using minimalist wall treatments that allowed the rooms to serve as more or less neutral containers.
Frank became a member of the German Werkbund and, in 1912, a founding member of the Austrian Werkbund, where he dealt intensively with the issue of workers’ housing and was an ardent advocate of the Siedler and garden city movements.
In 1913, he joined Oskar Wlach and skar Strnad’s studio collective, which existed until 1918. During these years, they built the Scholl and Strauss homes in Vienna and the Bunzl house in Ortmann, for example.
In 1919, Frank began teaching at the Vienna School of Applied Arts, continuing until 1926. In 1925, Frank founded the Haus und Garten furniture company together with Wlach and, in the beginning, Walter Sobotka. They went on to plan houses and apartment furnishings and to design and manufacture furniture, lamps, fabrics, and more. In 1927, Frank completed the Claeson house in Falsterbo, his first project in Sweden, the home country of his wife Anna Regina. That same year, Frank was the only Austrian invited to participate in the Stuttgart Werkbundsiedlung (Weißenhofsiedlung).
In 1929, he was hired by Julius and Margarete Beer to plan the Villa Beer. Frank designed an overall concept together with Wlach, including the interior and garden design. He published his thoughts on the design of this house in an essay titled “The House as Path and Place”.
From 1930 to 1932, in parallel with the Villa Beer, the Werkbundsiedlung Wien was founded under Frank’s artistic direction.
The political situation and increasingly anti-Semitic tremors in Austria prompted Frank to emigrate to Sweden with his wife in 1934. In Stockholm, he started working with the renowned furniture and interior design company Svenskt Tenn. Due to a lack of projects, Frank withdrew from construction in 1937, concentrating almost exclusively on furniture and textile design.
His work for Svenskt Tenn brought him international fame, particularly for his fabric designs. His creativity had an enduring impact on Swedish design, and its influences can still be seen in the internationally recognized Scandinavian design style. Svenskt Tenn still produces Frank’s designs, the most important part of their collections to this day.
In 1960, Frank was conferred the City of Vienna Design Award and in 1965 the Grand Austrian State Prize for Architecture.
Josef Frank died in Stockholm in 1967.
In 2005, on the occasion of his 120th birthday, the ÖGFA – Austrian Society for Architecture mounted a plaque at Wiedner Hauptstrasse 64, 1040 Vienna, where he lived in a penthouse apartment from 1913–1934.
Dr. Oskar Wlach
18 April 1881 – 16 August 1963
Oskar Wlach, one of the main figures of the second wave of Viennese modernism between the wars, is somewhat wrongly overshadowed by his partner Josef Frank. According to the Austrian encyclopedia of architects, he and Oskar Strnad had worked on and completed projects together for a number of years before the slightly younger Josef Frank joined their studio collective in 1913.
Born 1881 in Vienna, he, like Josef Frank, studied at the Vienna University of Technology under Karl König. In 1906, he completed his studies with a dissertation on the early Renaissance, one of the first graduates of the university to receive a doctorate.
Soon, he began working as a freelance architect in collaboration with university friend Oskar Strnad. The two entered a number of prominent competitions together, going on to build their first houses. A few years later (1913–1918), they were joined by Josef Frank. Their shared education, artistic positions, and Jewish origins connected the trio.
During the First World War, Wlach realized a number of projects in Istanbul, where, even after the war, he worked in the technical division of the military. In 1919, he returned to Vienna and married Klari Haynal (née Krausz).
In the mid-1920s, Wlach and Frank founded the Haus & Garten furniture company as equal owners. Wlach held the position of managing director. The successful company manufactured an array of home furnishings and was known and loved for its fabric, furniture, patio furniture, and garden design.
After 1934, when Frank emigrated to Sweden, Wlach ran the Haus & Garten company and continued to work as an architect. Then, in 1938, the flourishing company was Aryanized. Wlach and his wife escaped to Switzerland. After a period in London, in 1939 they emigrated to the USA, where Wlach occasionally designed apartment interiors. Overall, however, order volume was very low. In the early 1950s, he unsuccessfully applied for restitution for the Haus & Garten company. None of his attempts to return to Austria and build on his great earlier successes came to fruition, and he never managed to gain a foothold as an architect in the USA.
Wlach died in 1963 at the age of 83 in a retirement home in New York.