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

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.

List of Works on 1stdibs.com

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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  • Misha Black (1910 – 1977) British industrial and exhibition designer

    Misha Black (1910 – 1977) British industrial and exhibition designer

    He was mostly self-taught despite a short period of study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and in Paris, beginning his professional career in graphic art and design of exhibition stands.Read More →

  • Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986) – an American Designer

    Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986) – an American Designer

    He arrived in the United States in 1929, just in time for the great depression. As it happened the beginning of the depression was a fortuitous time for a talented designer with new ideas to arrive in the United States. The old design aesthetic was disappearing with the collapsing economy. Manufacturers wanted to stimulate demand for their products by offering customers new designs, and Loewy had an abundance of them with the ego to match. His mother had always told him, “It is better to be envied than pitied.”Read More →

  • Donald Deskey (1894 – 1989) an American industrial, furniture and interior designer

    Donald Deskey (1894 – 1989) an American industrial, furniture and interior designer

    Donald Deskey was an American industrial, furniture, and interior designer. He was born in Blue Earth, Minnesota. He was professionally active in New York. He may have lacked the European sophistication and architectural training of his friend Paul Frankl. However, he created a uniquely American modern style that combined streamlining with French Art Deco taste.Read More →

  • Lisa Krohn (b.1963) American Industrial Designer

    Lisa Krohn (b.1963) American Industrial Designer

    Lisa Krohn studied three-dimensional form with Rowena Reed Kostello, New York, between 1985 and 1986. From 1985 to 1985, she studied art history and visual arts at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. From 1988 to 1988, she was a student at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.Read More →

  • Teapot with warmer by Christopher Dresser

    Teapot with warmer by Christopher Dresser

    He developed a variety of every day goods for silverware manufactures in London and Birmingham between 1865 and 1885.Read More →

  • Sergio Asti (1926 – 2021) Italian Designer and Architect

    Sergio Asti (1926 – 2021) Italian Designer and Architect

    Asti was born in the city of Milan. In 1956, he founded his design firm after graduating from the Polytechnic University of Milan with a degree in architecture. He was one of the founding members of the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale in the same year.Read More →

  • Red Ball Rocking Horse by Creative Playthings

    Red Ball Rocking Horse by Creative Playthings

    This rocking “horse” was provided by Creative Playthings, an expensive educational toymaker, in the 1960s. This toy reduces the rocking horse to its bare essentials in a design that mimics Modernism, a prominent aesthetic in the mid-twentieth century. Read More →

  • OMK Design and Rodney Kinsman RDI

    OMK Design and Rodney Kinsman RDI

    OMK Design is a British design group. It was established in 1966 by Rodney Kinsman, Jerzy Olejnik, Bryan Morrison. They all trained at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts. The group produced its furniture, including its 1969 T5 chair.Read More →

  • Milner Gray (1899 – 1997) British Industrial & Graphic Designer

    Milner Gray (1899 – 1997) British Industrial & Graphic Designer

    Gray was a fellow student and friend of artist-designer Graham Sutherland at Goldsmiths College School of Art, London University, where he studied painting and design. He served in the Royal Engineers during WWI when he was involved in camouflage work like other famous artists and designers from both wars. Read More →

  • Marquina Cutlery by Rafael Marquina

    Marquina Cutlery by Rafael Marquina

    The purpose of this cutlery is to avoid staining the tablecloth, the same idea that inspired Marquina to create his famous olive oil bottle. The unique handles of the knives, forks and spoons raise the part that would touch the table. The fish knife incorporates an ingenious prong for opening shellfish.Read More →

  • Russel Wright (1904 – 1976) American Industrial Designer

    Russel Wright (1904 – 1976) American Industrial Designer

    Wright’s design philosophy was based on the idea that the table was the heart of the home. He developed everything from tableware to larger furniture, architecture to landscaping, all of which promote comfortable, informal living.Read More →

  • Earl Tupper (1907 – 1983) – Creator of Tupperware

    Earl Tupper (1907 – 1983) – Creator of Tupperware

    Tupper refined and moulded black, inflexible bits of polythene slag, a waste product of the oil refining process supplied to him by his boss at DuPont, to construct lightweight, non-breakable containers, cups, bowls, plates, and even gas masks used during World War II. Read More →

  • Sebastian Bergne (b. 1966) – English / Italian industrial designer

    Sebastian Bergne (b. 1966) – English / Italian industrial designer

    The phrase ‘less is more’ perfectly encapsulates the core of these works, the quality of which can only be attained by a proper understanding of form.Read More →

  • Matali Crasset – French Product Designer

    Matali Crasset – French Product Designer

    Matali Crasset – French Product Designer. Crasset’s childhood on a farm undoubtedly influenced her distinct design style. Read More… Read More →

  • Ross Lovegrove ( b.1958) British Furniture and Product Designer

    Ross Lovegrove ( b.1958) British Furniture and Product Designer

    Lovegrove is a versatile designer who regularly draws inspiration from nature’s range of forms, as evidenced by his gently curved Lloyd Loom chaises longues, which combine sensuality and ergonomics.Read More →

  • Alfredo Häberli ( b. 1964) Argentinian industrial designer

    Alfredo Häberli ( b. 1964) Argentinian industrial designer

    In Häberli’s design method, the human being is the beginning point. His constructions and items are made to be utilised.Read More →

  • Antonio Citterio ( b.1950 ) Italian furniture designer

    Antonio Citterio ( b.1950 ) Italian furniture designer

    Antonio Citterio is a leading Italian architect and interior designer, furniture and industrial designer. Citterio explored the possibilities of new materials and technologies rather than aligning himself with New Design’s more fashionable aesthetics.Read More →

  • Christian Germanaz ( b. 1940 ) french industrial designer

    Christian Germanaz ( b. 1940 ) french industrial designer

    Germanaz designed the Half and Half seat (1964), it was manufactured by Airborne in 1968. This consisted of two identical plastic shapes clamped together to form a bench.Read More →

  • Naoto Fukasawa ( b.1956) Japanese product designer

    Naoto Fukasawa ( b.1956) Japanese product designer

    Fukasawa is well-known for his designs and design theories, endowed with a quiet strength that represents people’s dreams and expectations. Conveying them using such terms as “design dissolving in behaviour”, “centre of consciousness”, “normality”, “outline”, and “archetype”, he continues to put these philosophies into practice in his designs.Read More →

  • Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007) Austrian Designer

    Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007) Austrian Designer

    Although trained and active as an architect, Sottsass secured a permanent place in pop culture with his designs of everyday items. From 1957, he was a consultant designer at Olivetti, where he designed computers, adding machines, typewriters, and systems furniture. Read More →

  • Franco Mirenzi ( b. 1942 ) Italian Industrial Designer

    Franco Mirenzi ( b. 1942 ) Italian Industrial Designer

    Franco Mirenzi is an Italian industrial designer who was born in 1942.Read More →

  • Douglas Kelley ( b.1928 ) American Industrial Designer

    Douglas Kelley ( b.1928 ) American Industrial Designer

    Douglas Kelley (born 1928) is an American industrial designer best known for creating the T-chair and the Elna Lotus sewing machine.Read More →

  • Marilena Boccato Italian product designer

    Marilena Boccato Italian product designer

    Marilena Boccato is a designer from Italy who worked in Treviso and Padua. In 1967, Boccato began her professional career. She collaborated with Gian Nicola Gigante and Antonio Zambusi.Read More →

  • Swatch Watch a Design Classic

    Swatch Watch a Design Classic

    Swatch has revolutionised the watch industry over the previous four decades. The Swatch became the fashion item of the 1980s thanks to its combination of Swiss technology, design, and low price. It is the first watch that has become a classic look, with a black plastic band and a basic watch face.Read More →

  • Matteo Thun (b.1952) Italian ceramicist and designer

    Matteo Thun (b.1952) Italian ceramicist and designer

    We reject design as an issue of taste! We follow a different strategy: Simplicity. We always search for the iconic form and create things that people can understand intuitively. We, Read More →

  • Ingo Maurer (1932 – 2019) – German industrial designer – Poet of Light

    Ingo Maurer (1932 – 2019) – German industrial designer – Poet of Light

    Ingo Maurer was a German industrial designer who specialised in the development of lighting fixtures and installations. “Poet of Light” was his nickname.Read More →

  • Jasper Morrison (1959 – ) British Designer quirky, understated furniture

    Jasper Morrison (1959 – ) British Designer quirky, understated furniture

    Morrison produced quirky, satiric, understated furniture. His 1986 South Kensington flat was widely published in design magazines. He designed 1988 Door handles I and II, and a 1989 range of aluminium handles produced by FSB in Germany. Read More →

  • John Mascheroni (1932- ) American furniture and industrial designer

    John Mascheroni (1932- ) American furniture and industrial designer

    John Mascheroni is an American furniture and industrial designer. He studied at the Pratt Insitute in Brooklyn New York. He opened his own design office and furniture factory in New York. Mascheroni designed furniture for manufactures in High Point, North Carolina. From 1990, his furniture designs were produced by Swaim and, from 1991, others by Jeffco.Read More →

  • Enzo Mari (1932 -2020) Italian modernist, industrial designer

    Enzo Mari (1932 -2020) Italian modernist, industrial designer

    Graduating Table Bowls In 1956, he became interested in design, particularly books and children’s games. In 1957, he began working for Danese, for whom some of his designs and ideas for games and puzzles, including the 1957 wooden child’s puzzle, were realised.Read More →

  • Antonia Astori (1940 – ) Italian designer

    Antonia Astori (1940 – ) Italian designer

    Antonia Astori is an Italian fashion designer who co-founded Driade with her brother Enrico and Adelaide Acerbi in 1968.Read More →

  • Pierre Jeanneret (1896 – 1967) Swiss architect and designer

    Pierre Jeanneret (1896 – 1967) Swiss architect and designer

    Pierre Jeanneret (1896 – 1967) was a Swiss architect and builder. He was a talented painter, artist, and architect as a young student, greatly inspired by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier), his cousin and life mentor. From 1916 to 1918, he served in the Swiss Army as a cyclist.Read More →

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