Lovers of iconic lamps from the early 20th century were for decades deprived of the possibility of owning some of the most striking pieces by the Wiener Werkstätte and the Bauhaus, which had long fallen out of production. WOKA, a Vienna-based manufacturer, set out to bring a significant part of history back to life. Owner and CEO of WOKA Wolfgang Karolinsky has introduced some of the most significant pieces of lighting design from the early 20th century to new audiences, via his Vienna-based brand.
Having positioned himself as an expert in the work of Josef Hoffmann and his peers from the renowned Wiener Werkstätte – the Viennese collective of architects, designers and artists who brought a new, proto-modernist language to the applied arts – Karolinsky’s trajectory was to change direction again when he purchased a collection of original lamps from the period. “I bought a huge collection of old lamps in the 1970s, in which I was dealing, and to restore these antiques, I needed to find the right craftsmen” he explains. It was through this process of restoration that Karolinsky became involved in production.
WOKA has dedicated itself for decades now to the quality reissuing of classic lighting designs from not only the Wiener Werkstätte, but also the Bauhaus and from French Art Deco. Craftsmanship lies at the heart of the enterprise, with Karolinksy and his team taking pains to ensure that each piece that leaves their atelier remains true to the fabrication techniques of the original designs. “Our workshop is producing in the same way as the Wiener Werstätte did when it was operating from 1903 to 1932,” says Karolinsky. “We are about 20 people and that’s enough. We never wanted to be a big company, just a company that is able to deliver quality.”
The designers whose work WOKA is licensed to produce read like a who’s who of the Vienna design pantheon. In addition to Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, the manufacturer has reissued striking table, ceiling, wall and floor lamps, as well as chandelier pieces, by the likes of Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner and Carl Witzmann. Karolinsky’s absolute passion for the oft forgotten designs he brings back to life is inextricable from the daily business of producing and selling, indulging less viable products due to an aesthetic appreciation of their design.
For Karolinsky, whose company holds over 200 design licences, it’s not always been easy to convince people of the authenticity of his enterprise due to the necessary modifications that come into the production process. “In the early days, people often thought I was doing fakes,” he says. “They were very purist. Now there are new generations of admirers of these works and they appreciate the quality of our production. They know the original pieces are in museums and not available to buy.” WOKA’s designers take a responsive, flexible approach to these modifications, attempting to perfect the beautiful objects they craft.
Architects in particular value the aesthetics and quality of WOKA’s lamps, testified to by the number of high-end interior-architectural projects for which they have been created. From iconic Hoffmann- and Loos-design buildings and interiors in Vienna, such as the Purkersdorf Sanatorium and the American Bar, to the Gild Hall hotel in New York and Amsterdam’s Central Station, the cream of Wiener Werkstätte, Bauhaus and Art Deco lighting design has been installed in some of the most memorable, high-end spaces internationally.
Discover the world of WOKA at www.woka.com.
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1. Doria Chandelier. Courtesy of Woka Lamps.