In 2012 six product designers from six different European nations were invited by the Vienna Tourist Board to submit proposals for a three-dimensional souvenir for the city. The winning proposal, ‘Wien Spielkarten’, “Vienna playing cards”, by Studio Formafantasma, has now been produced and is available in the Mak Museum Shop in Vienna.
‘Wien Spielkarten’ is a deck of cards loaded with historical references to modernist Vienna. “The design of the cards revisits the picturesque.” says Formafantasma. “Textures sampled from museum archives, iconic modernist buildings, and traditional Austrian products are playfully mixed to generate a new iconic collection of playing cards.” The deck is locally produced in Vienna by traditional playing card company Piatnik & Söhne. Started in 1824 by Anton Moser, the company is considered by some to be a icon of Vienna and still one of the most successful producers of its kind.
Some of the references included in the deck of cards; the club samples the weave of the straw in the Thonet chair no.14, while the diamond symbol is a square turned at ninety degrees, alluding to the recurring quadratic theme in the work of Josef Hoffmann.
The ace of diamonds features Hoffmann’s iconic Kubus armchair, designed in 1910. The ace of hearts is the ‘heart of Adolf Loos’ and it is accompanied by the title of his 1913 essay ‘Ornament and Crime’. The spade symbol has been replaced with the Eicheln (acorn), one of the suits used in Germany and Austria, especially in the southern regions. These suits explicitly refer to rural culture and seasonal harvesting.
As a reinterpretation of such characteristics the six is designed with five acorns stacked at the bottom of the card as if the fruit had fallen from a tree. The king of hearts is armed with elegance. His sword is carved with the title of the essay by Adolf Loos ‘Why a man should be well-dressed’ while the texture of his vest samples a textile designed by Josef Hoffmann for the Austrian company Wiener Werkstätte.
The queen of hearts is the French American-born dancer Josephine Baker. She is wearing the house designed for her in 1927 by Adolf Loos, but never built. The armour of the Jack of Hearts is a side view of the Steiner House, designed in 1910 by Adolf Loos and located in St. Veit-Gasse 10, Vienna.
The two jokers are pictured as waiters of a Viennese Kaffeehaus. One wears the iconic hat of the famous coffee brand Julius Meinl. On the tray coffee is served traditionally, with a spoon laid upside down on the cup. The other joker carries the ‘candy dish’, one of the most iconic pieces of the J. & L. Lobmeyr Viennese glass manufacturer, designed by Oswald Haerdtl in 1925.
Design and Concept: Studio Formafantasma, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin
Development: Francesco Zorzi
Photos: Federico Floriani
Producer: Piatnik, Vienna
Client: Vienna Tourismus