Wilhelm Wagenfeld (1900 – 1990) German architect and industrial designer

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Wilhelm Wagenfeld featured image

Known for MTS Table Lamp

Wilhelm Wagenfeld (1900 – 1990) was a German architect and industrial designer.

Education

He worked as an apprentice at the Koch und Bergfeld silverware factory in Bremen from 1915 to 1918. He was also a student at Bremen’s Kunstgewerbeschule and Hanau’s Staatkiche Zeihenakademie from 1919 to 1921. He studied privately in Bremen and Worpswede between 1921 and 1922. 1923 – 1924 at the Bauhaus, Weimar under László Moholy-Nagy.

Egg cups, 1938 designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld
Egg cups, 1938 designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld

Biography

He was an assistant lecturer at the Bauhaus in Weimar from 1922 to 1929, where he primarily designed lighting fixtures. 

The MTS Table Lamp

The MTS table lamp, circa 1923, featured a nickel-plated brass disc base with three small hemispherical cushioned feet and a cylindrical column topped by a metal ring on which a hemispherical shade rested. One of the earliest instances of the Bauhaus design philosophy was this light. It was available in two variations: one with a glass disc base and a metal base. Schwintzer und Graff, Berlin, produced it in both versions until 1928. By 1930, Bunter and Remmeler in Frankfurt had created a variation model. Wagenfeld further developed the model by Architekturbedarf in Dresden in 1931. It is regarded as a design symbol of the twentieth century, and it is still in production today.

Bauhaus lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker (1923 - 1924)
Bauhaus lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker (1923 – 1924)

Bauhaus

He was the Bauhaus metalworking department’s director in 1929. During his time at the Bauhaus, he also developed metalwork and carved and printed woodcuts. However, he is best renowned for his glasswork. He became the director of the Staatliche Hochschule für Baukunst und Handwerk’s metal workshop in Weimar. From 1931 to 1935, he lived in Berlin and taught at the Kunsthochschule. Director of the glassworking department in 1942.

The 1930s

He worked for Jenaer Glaswerke Schott und Genossen from 1930 to 1934. There built heat-resistant glass kitchenware for mass production, such as the 1932 teapot and diffuser, cups and saucers, 1934 coffee percolator, and 1935 kitchenware, much of which is still in production today. In addition, he designed pressed-glass utility dishes and table glass for Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke, where he was artistic director from 1935 to 1938. The 1938 Kubus-Geschirr (Cube-formed Dishes) modular stacking containers for Lausitzer (nine pressed-glass components making a cube shape when combined) and the 1938 zig-zag shaped ink bottle for the Pelikan ink firm are two of his most well-known designs. At Lausitzer, his claimed purpose was to manufacture glass that was affordable and good enough for the wealthy. In 1936, Dr Mey, co-chair Lausitzer, established Wagenfeld with a ten-person design department. Wagenfeld’s Oberweimar glasses, which were deemed elitist at the time, outsold every pair of glasses ever created.

Teapot, 1930 - 1934 glass designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld
Teapot, 1930 – 1934 glass designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld

Nazi Era

During the Nazi era, he created austere Bauhaus shapes, and after WWII, he continued to work at Lausitzer. In 1947, he was appointed as a design professor at Berlin’s Hochschule für Bildenden Kunste. He opened his studio in Stuttgart in 1954. He worked as a consultant designer for Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik (WMEF), designing in-flight hospitality packs for Lufthansa, porcelain for Rosenthal, Braun appliances, and lighting for WMF and Schott. Porzellanmanufaktur Fürstenberg made his porcelain designs in 1934. His work appeared in various publications, including issues of the magazines’ Die Form and Kunst und Handwerk. He wrote publications on industrial design theory, emphasising the importance of a functional approach to effective design.

Recognition

His Jena and Lausitzer designs were shown at 1937 Paris’ Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne’ (two grand prizes). Other awards included; 

  • bronze medal at 1936 (VI) and grand prizes at 1940 (VII) and 1957 (XI) Triennali di Milano; 
  • 1968 ‘Berliner Kunstpreis,’ Bonn; 
  • 1969 Heinrich Tessenow Medal at the Technische Universitat, Hanover; 
  • 1969 Bundespreis ‘Die gute Industrieform,’ Bonn. 
  • Work was subject of 1960 ‘Industrieware von Wilhelm Wagenfeld’ exhibition, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zurich; 
  • ‘Wilhelm Wagenfeld: 50 Jahre Mitarbeit in Fabriken’ exhibition, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Cologne, 1973, and Die Neue Sammlung, Munich, 1974; 
  • 1980 ‘Wilhelm Wagenfeld: Schone Form, Gute Ware’ exhibition, Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart. 
  • Glassware and metalwork for WMF included in 1983—84 ‘Design Since 1945’ exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Many of his designs are kept in the collections of prominent museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and a museum dedicated to his work has been constructed in Bremen, Germany.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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Carl J. Jucker (1902 – 1997) Swiss metalworker – Encyclopedia of Design

Carl J.Jucker (1902 – 1997) was a metal worker from Switzerland. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule, Zürich, from 1918-1922. He studied under Muche between 1922 and 1923. He studied at Bauhaus with Christian Dell, Paul Klee and László Moholy-Nagy.

Otl Aicher (1922 – 1991) German industrial and graphic designer – Encyclopedia of Design

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