The secret of Mart Stam

Twice a year Dutch Thonet dealer Pot Interieur in Axel organises a masterclass for architects and designers aiming to create a virtual encounter between current designers and iconic design heroes. In order to celebrate the new dealership of Thonet at Pot Interieur, the furniture retailer organised ’Meesters bij Pot: Mart Stam’: a masterclass about Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam. Stam is known for designing the cantilever chair and played an important role in the Bauhaus-Era. In context of this masterclass Karel Boonzaaijer – a well-known Dutch designer and professor of Conceptual Design at the University of Applied Arts in Aachen – presented a film about the vision, ideas and design secrets of Mart Stam. Discover his findings here.

 

 

Like sitting on air

Mart Stam first introduced his pioneering »chair with no rear legs« at the opening of the Weißenhof project in Stuttgart in 1927. He had begun experimenting with gas pipes one year earlier, and the introduction of his prototype revolutionised modern furniture design. At the time, Stam was not yet interested in the flexing effect achieved with cold-bent steel tubing. Rather, it was the simple, unornamented design that captured his attention and that perfectly fit in with the modern architecture of the day. The »S 43«, a variation of this design, was introduced in 1931. The design combined clarity of form and aesthetic economy of construction with the advantage of improved seating comfort: The comfortable cantilever effect, which made opulent cushioning totally unnecessary, was said to feel like sitting on air.

Thonet, Mart Stam
Mart Stam Signatur

 

 

Born 1899 in Purmerend in the Netherlands, Mart Stam was among the leaders of Modern Architecture and a pioneer in contemporary furniture design. He attracted much attention in 1927 with his architectural contribution to the Weißenhof project in Stuttgart both as an architect and as a designer experimenting with tubular steel. In 1928 and 1929 he worked as an architect in Frankfurt, where he helped build the Hellerhof housing estate, among other projects. At the same time he served as a guest lecturer at the Bauhaus, teaching elementary construction theory and urban planning. From 1930 to 1934, Mart Stam was active in Russia and other countries; he subsequently worked as an architect in Amsterdam until 1948. In 1939 he assumed the top position at the Academy of Arts and Crafts in Amsterdam, and in 1950 he was named director of the Conservatory for Applied Art in Berlin-Weißensee. He returned to Amsterdam in 1953 but emigrated to Switzerland in 1977, where he died on February 23, 1986, in Goldach.

Thonet S 43 schwarz Chrom
Bauhaus Dessau

Modernism in Architecture

One of the most important periods in the history of modernism in architecture and design is without a doubt the Bauhaus. Walter Gropius called for a uniting of art and technology at this innovative training institution established in 1919. After having moved to Dessau in 1926, experiments with the innovative tubular steel material were made at this school by, among others, Bauhaus teachers such as Marcel Breuer and Mart Stam. These experiments were connected with the emerging movement of the New Building, which aimed to offer modern people new architecture and new institutions.

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.

 


Weissenhof Haus Mart Stam