A Life Less Ordinary

Heinz Witthoeft portrait

Last of the utopian modernists? A portrait of the Stuttgart-based “Architecturtailer and Stationist” Heinz Witthoeft
Frame magazine issue 86

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Heinz Witthoeft says he is most definitely not a designer, he is, he explains, an “ARCHITECTURTAILER and STATIONIST” and it is very important to him that we understand the difference. His Stuttgart atelier is also his home, packed to the brim with archive material, work in progress and drawing equipment. The only sign that anyone lives here is a mattress in the corner with a few blankets piled on top: “my dog bed”, he says. Witthoeft is a sprightly man dressed in black with a polo necked jumper and heavy-rimmed “architects” glasses. He looks and moves like one far younger than his 76 years.

Since 1959 Witthoeft’s life work has been based on a city system of his own devising which has its own manifesto, own society ideals, it’s own systemic structure, own furniture and even its own nomenclature. “Modernism has failed to this day”, he says, “to provide us with an urban model suitable for our society”. So Witthoeft has spent the last forty years devising one of his own. All his furniture systems, drawings, photographs and graphic designs are part of his utopian urban ideal. They are strictly reduced, almost severe in form, yet they have an attractive emotionality about them that makes them far from cold. He belongs to the great German post-war, functional generation but was never part of it. His furniture forms and his sense of proportion are powerful and iconic, yet hardly anyone outside a small circle of insiders in his home town of Stuttgart has heard of him and his work and not a single piece of his furniture has ever made it into series production…