BE04/05/BAR STOOL: Italian by birth and a sculptor, Harry Bertoia was a member of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Some of the most famous designers of the twentieth century joined this important institute, including Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, Ray Kaiser and Florence Schust Knoll. Bertoia was a teacher at the Cranbrook when Charles Eames was Head of the Department of Experimental Design. Inevitable was the exchange of mutual knowledge and influence, leading Bertoia to present his seats about a year after Eames’ chair with a metal wire structure. Although Bertoia made use of similar materials and techniques, his chairs attain to a plastic result completely different from that characterizing Eames’ chair.
BR04/05: Although it cannot be considered innovative in a narrow sense, this model is unquestionably Breuer’s work. During this same period, other designers were working on the continuous tubular cantilever chair, which gave rise to legal disputes around attribution. In a lawsuit filed in 1929 the German High Court awarded attribution to the Dutch designer Mart Stam. Breuer’s version with the beechwood seat and back was nevertheless a brilliant solution to the necessity for the structural stiffening of the frame. In the hemp or wicker versions designed by Mart Stam, Anton Lorenz and Mies, metal bars introduced under the seat and behind the back provided the strength to keep the legs separated. In the 1960’s, the chair was renamed "Cesca", as a tribute to his daughter Cheska.
In 1925 Marcel Breuer in collaboration with Karl Koerner, head smith of the Junkerswerken in Dessau, produced the first model of the curved tubular steel lounge chair better known as “Wassily” chair. Technical notes: autogenic welding of tubular structure in nickel-plated steel (the first experimental model consisted of iron tube) with 20 welding points; rigid metal structure on 4 legs with handcrafted production of several pieces to be jointed (with considerable waste of technological time); canvas covering. In 1926 the chair was disassembled again and the material was used for other experimental models.
This model was produced at the beginning of 1926 in the Junkerswerken of Dessau with Marcel Breuer’s suggestions and is considered the prototype of the mass-produced “Wassily” chair. Technical notes: autogenic welding of tubular structure in nickel-plated steel with 14 welding points; metal structure on two legs; technologically realizable only by means of artisan techniques element by element; canvas covering, (subsequently replaced by Eisengarn covering). This unique model is at the Bauhaus in Dessau.
This version produced at the Bauhaus is dated 1927. It presents some of the elements characteristic of the later model such as the continuity of the back’s tubular frame. We also notice a simplification of the covering system, whose assembly is made easier by using springs.
At the same time Standard-Möbel in Berlin began mass-producing the chair. Technical notes: mass-production in industrial assembly line; drastic reduction of the number of welding points with the introduction of screw connections; for the first time the surfaces of seat and armrests adapted to the seat shape; Eisengarn covering; tubular frame in nickel-plated steel. The chair appears for the first time in the Weissenhofsiedlung of Stuttgart as a mass-produced model by Standard Moebel of Berlin (B4 Model).
In 1928 as a result of Marcel Breuer’s resignation from the Standard-Möbel Company of Berlin, another variation of the “Wassily” chair was created as an alternative for Thonet. Technical notes: tubular frame in nickel-plated steel produced in assembly line; very similar to the third model except for the unique back (shape of a tubular upright in continuous steel). The original model had a covering in canvas straps.
Breuer made a further modification for Thonet after Standard-Möbel was absorbed in 1929. Technical notes: further elaboration of the five new technical and assembly processes of 1928; improvement of sitting comfort by modifying the transverse uprights; Eisengarn covering; tubular frame in nickel-plated or chromium-plated steel. This first model of a chair in curved tubular steel designed by Breuer is generally held to be the first armchair with a metal structure. This despite the existence of a cantilever chair presented by Gerhard Stüttgen in 1923, and the patent granted in the United States in 1922 to Harry Nolan for the design of a tubular metal cantilever chair. The chair was renamed "Wassily" as a tribute to Wassily Kandinsky, for whose Bauhaus apartment it was allegedly designed.
This is the best-known version of the re-interpretation by Le Corbusier of the British “officer’s chair". It had previously been produced in the upholstered version, with flared armrests formed by leather straps stretched by springs, and this way it had been used in Villa Church’s interior, at Ville d'Avray. This version was produced by Heidi Weber in Zurich, who from 1959 re-interpreted Le Corbusier’s designs introducing some adaptations, in agreement with the designer, which fostered their industrialization.
CO15/16: Charlotte Perriand started designing furniture before her joining the Atelier of Le Corbusier. The swivel chair was for instance designed and manufactured in 1927. When Le Corbusier asked Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand to share in the program for "domestic equipment" which contemplated the construction of the four prototypes designed by Le Corbusier (chaise longue, grand confort, petit confort, siège a basculant), Charlotte Perriand contributed to the general project with her swivel chair, her swivel stool and the T-beam table. Her designs were therefore presented with the four prototypes by Le Corbusier, and included in the Thonet catalogue as well.
GR54: The chair is clearly visible in the photographs of Tempe à Pailla, the designer’s home in Castellar, in the south of France, where it was used in the lacquered version as a chair for the terrace. It is not certain whether it was conceived as part of the project for Villa E 1027 in Roquebrune that Eileen Gray designed with Jean Badovici between 1927 and 1929. It associated an extreme formal simplicity with a deep constructive complexity.
HE14/24/25: A pioneer in the use of simple industrial material for design furniture, Herbst developed with continuity the theme of the chair with seat and back made of elastic cords, similar to those used to tie up parcels. The first of many subsequent versions was presented at the Paris Salon d'Automne des Artistes Décorateurs in 1929, together with a version used as a high stool. René Herbst founded the company Etablissements René Herbst to produce and sell his projects. The version with high back and armrests follows the one without armrests. It appears in a photograph of the showroom furnished by Robert Lallemant, a ceramist and designer, in 1931. In 1937 a version was presented that maintained the elastic cords for the armrests, but they were replaced by woven cane in the seat and the back.
The most famous and ubiquitous chair designed by Arne Jacobsen is the result of one of his most fertile lines of research. It was designed three years after the "Ant” chair and at the same time as models such as the stacking chairs 3103, 3123 and the "Tongue". The formal search carried out by Jacobsen in the course of the years, along with an attempt at improving the comfort of his new chairs, inspired the author to elaborate on the idea of a frame in plywood and a base in tubular metal to other subsequent models: the "Grand Prix" in 1957 and the“Seagull” stacking chair, designed in 1969.
KD04: Designed with the encouragement of his mentor, Eero Saarinen, Knorr’s project of the Side Chair was co-winner, with George Leowald from Germany, of the First Prize awarded by the Museum of Modern Art at the Low-cost Design Competition in 1948. The shell of the prototype presented at the competition was made with a thermo-bended plastic sheet. Knoll Associates started manufacturing Knorr’s chair in 1950, after introducing some changes to the original design, due to both technical and formal reasons. In order to reinforce the fastening of the sheet, the dimension of the stiffening rib was reduced and the legs were modified. The shape of the sheet itself was improved. The Chair was manufactured by Treitel Gratz, New York, between 1950 and 1952.
MI04/05/14/15: Exhibited for the first time with a leather back and seat at the Weißenhof in 1927, it was produced until 1930 by Berliner Metallgewerbe Joseph Müller, and from 1931 by Bamberg Metalwerkstätten, to which all the designs by Mies and Lily Reich were transferred. Within the same year, however, Mies stipulated a contract with Thonet Mundus of Zurich, which guaranteed the worldwide distribution of the products. The version with armrests of the model was exhibited at the Weißenhof in 1927.
MI24/25: This model, lower and wider than the original version designed by Mies in 1927 (see mod. MI14), was shown for the first time at the Berlin Bau-Austellung in 1931. It was initially produced by Bamberg Metalwerkstätten.
MI55: Between 1927 (the year of his first exhibitions at the Weißenhof) and 1930, Mies Van Der Rohe, with the collaboration of his friend Lily Reich, developed various prototypes of tubular steel cantilever chairs. At least one original tubular version is still existing, characterized by a more inclined seat and a wicker covering, which in 1930 gave the cue for the small armchair of the Tugendhat house’s dining-room in Brno. The characteristics of the one designed for the Tugendhat house were modified by Mies to adapt its comfort at the dining table. It was initially produced by Berliner Metallgewerbe Joseph Müller, and from 1931 by Bamberg Metalwerkstätten.
SA04/05: The chair represents the peak of Saarinen’s research on "organic furniture" started in the early forties with the exhibition of the "organic design in home furnishing collection", a competition announced by MOMA, in which Saarinen participated with Charles Eames. Saarinen aimed at two targets: on one side he meant to bring formal order back to the inside of what the author considered the "sea of legs" within the inhabited space; "the framework bases of chairs and tables present in a typical interior produce an unpleasant, confused and restless atmosphere. I wanted to clear it of the sea of legs. I wanted the chairs to be a sole object again. All the greatest objects of the past, from the chair of Tutankamen to that of Thomas Chippendale have always been characterized by a structural "unicum"; on the other side Saarinen wanted to give formal and constructive unicity back to the product. "With all our excitation for frames in plywood and plastic, we have lost part of this organicity. The way in which today it is realized, the "pedestal furniture" is made of half plastic and half metal. In perspective, I am watching at the moment in which the plastic industry will reach such a level to let the chair, like planned, be realized in a single material "
ST44: Designed in 1926, it went into production the following year. It is similar to a chair attributed to Breuer, present in the 1927-1928 Thonet catalogue. In the original version, the chair had a stiffening bar between the front legs, which in Breuer’s and in all subsequent productions was replaced by a curved element under the seat. Already in 1923, Gerhard Stüttgen, a teacher at the Cologne School of Art, presented a cantilever chair, produced with a cold-drawn Mannesman tube, within an exhibition of the school’s works, although the design did not cause any sensation. The design made by Stam, who was presumably not informed of that first proposal, went far beyond the pure application of the technical possibilities offered by a Mannesman tube, since he investigated the linguistic and formal applications deriving from the suspended structure, which allowed him to develop the theme of rotating planes. Indeed, his first prototypes, perhaps as a consequence of his lacking knowledge of the more recent innovations offered by the steel industry, used grey hot-molded tubular steel and threaded angular joints. It was not until 1926, when he was invited by Mies to take part in the exhibition of the Stuttgart Weißenhof-Siedlung, that probably he was informed of the working methods and tools used in Bauhaus laboratories. A few weeks after the presentation of Stam’s chair, Mies also presented his version of the “cantilever” chair at the Stuttgarter Weißenhof-Siedlung. Mart Stam was awarded the authorship of the idea of the cantilever chair by the German court.
ST65: Based on designs by Mart Stam and Marcel Breuer. This model comes from the designs by Mart Stam and Marcel Breuer respectively for Standard Mobel and Thonet. The continuous tube which shapes both the base and the armrests also keeps the vertical tubes of the back spaced apart and rigid, allowing the elimination of the separation bar present in the original models.
The attribution of this chair is controversial. It is thought to have been designed by Mallet Stevens because it appears with very similar features in the photographs of the kitchen of his Villa Cavroix in 1932 and in a large restaurant he designed for the "Salon des Arts Ménagers". Derek E. Ostergard, in his "Bent Wood and Metal Furniture: 1850-1946" refuses to recognize Mallet Stevens’ authorship on historical and stylistic grounds, pointing out the differences characterizing the chair in the restaurant photographs,