Josef Zotti was an Austrian architect and furniture designer, one of Josef Hoffmann’s lesser known but most successful students. From a young age, he had a rigorous vocational training, beginning with a stint at the school of woodworking in Bolzano from 1895, when he was only thirteen. He later went on to study furniture and joinery at Technical college, before enrolling in Josef Hoffmann’s class for architecture in 1907. His professional career mirrored this progression from furniture to architecture. Initially, Zotti’s focus was on design, and in particular on the aesthetics of basketry. Here he sought to apply Hoffmann’s architectural ideas to wickerwork. Turned frames were a idiosyncratic marker of his work, ideas drawn out from his studentship in carpentry. The bobbin-style turned frames on chairs woven by the Prag Rudniker factory are a beautiful example of these ideas.
Zotti’s commission to design for Prag Rudniker from 1909 was a mark of his success. Prag Rudniker became Europe’s largest and preminent wickerwork factory in Europe in the early nineteen-hundreds. While their work was originally modelled on Anglo-American designs, they were also the first wickerwork company to turn to artist led serial models at the turn of the century. As such, the likes of Hans Vollmer — also a student of Hoffmann’s — Wilhelm Schmidt and eventually Zotti were given design roles. Here Zotti took on and developed the company’s emphasis on wood and woven furniture.
Later in his career, Zotti would lecture around Austria promoting and exploring Wilhelm Ostwald’s colour theory, as he sought to establish a colour standard as a guideline for industry and trade. During and after the war, Zotti would give his attention solely to architecture, working within and also expanding the parameters of Viennese Modernism immortalised by his old professor Hoffmann. Zotti died in his 71st year in Vienna.