Thonet and the Bauhaus
The crisis of the bourgeois ideals during the First World War went hand in hand with the desire for a sober, functional architecture. As representatives of the “New Objectivity”, the Bauhaus architects proclaimed Michael Thonet’s principle of reducing form and material to the essential as their guideline. Thonet’s bentwood designs from the 19th century, including the coffee house chair 214 (no. 14), was the first furniture to be produced in series and hence became a symbol of industrial standards and an expression of the modern spirit. It is therefore no surprise that the then innovative tubular steel soon became the favourite material of the Bauhaus architects in the late 1920s. At that time, Thonet once again confirmed its status as the master of bent forms and set the seal on its top position in the development of innovative seating furniture, which included the revolutionary “cantilever” chair. In the 1930s the company became the leading tubular steel furniture manufacturer.
The young Hungarian designer and Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer was one of the first to experiment with the new material in the mid-1920s. He had requested tubular steel from the Adler bicycle factory to build a prototype; however, his request was denied. The company was alienated by the “crazy idea” that an interior designer would be inspired by his new Adler bicycle to pursue such a revolutionary idea. Early on, Thonet recognised the potential of the impressive material and secured the rights to the best designs by avant-gardists including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Mart Stam, Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer through its contacts with the Bauhaus in Dessau. In 1928, an agreement between Thonet and Breuer was signed regarding a special tubular steel programme range. One year later, Thonet acquired Breuer’s company “Standard Möbel” and brought a comprehensive tubular steel collection to market. During those years, the young architect made numerous designs for Thonet, including the cantilever chairs B 32 and B 64 – known today as models no. S 32 and S 64 - and the double cantilever club chair S 35. With it, Thonet caused a sensation at the international “Salon des Artistes Décorateurs” in Paris in 1930.
In the post-war atmosphere of departure, tubular steel increasingly asserted itself as the material for furniture – it could be bent, it was elastic and, at the same time, solid. The enormous robustness of the material, its first-class craftsmanship processing and the minimalist design of the models make our tubular steel classics from the Bauhaus era extremely durable companions which will fascinate generations to come. Since their creation, the original designs of the great icons by Breuer, Stam and Mies van der Rohe have been produced in our Frankenberg plant.