The first known pieces of furniture by Otto Wagner designed in the 1880s, a period which saw a veritable cult of ornamentation, were already striking for their large size and economy of decoration. Later, Wagner's teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna provided theoretical and practical foundations for the Viennese furniture of the time. In his view, the form of a piece of furniture or utilitarian object resulted from its function and from the material used. So the decoration, reduced to the absolute minimum, only served to highlight the principles of construction.
In 1902, Wagner was given responsibility for the refurbishment of the Die Zeit newspaper offices located in no. 32 of the very elegant and wealthy Kärntnerstrasse. For this he created a façade entirely clad in glass and aluminium, a veritable manifesto of Viennese Modernism. He also designed the furniture in the news agency, including this cupboard.
Far from yielding to the aesthetic and elitist temptation of the Arts and Crafts movement - to which Hoffmann and Moser succumbed when they created the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903 - Wagner, like Loos, did not baulk at using materials and techniques from industry. All superfluous ornamentation disappeared. Only an assembly of dark wooden laths and aluminium strips animate the surface or highlight the structure. This ensemble seems to have been a sort of prototype of the furnishings that Wagner developed soon after in the rooms and offices of the Postsparkasse (Post Office savings bank, 1904-1906). It enables us to see how the furniture he designed was an integral part of his main architectural works.