Three steps to furniture innovation
The experiments of the joiner Marcel Breuer, who trained at the Bauhaus, stood at the beginning of the development. As a “young master” and head of the joinery workshop, he was influenced by the Dutch De Stijl group and especially by Gerrit Rietveld. In Weimar he had designed an expressive African chair. In 1925, when the Bauhaus was preparing its move to Dessau, in collaboration with external craftsmen – presumably in cooperation with a master locksmith from the Dessau Junkers Werke facility – he started expanding his knowledge and skills that had thus far been limited to working with wood.
The inspiration for the selection of the material was provided by the shiny, bent bicycle handlebar of Breuer’s new Adler bicycle. He tried to enlist the Frankfurt based company as a production partner or material supplier, but he failed. However, within a short period of time, Breuer designed a collection of furniture, some of which he was able to use to furnish the new Bauhaus building and Walter Gropius’ Master Houses. Today’s Thonet nested table B 9 was used in a specific version as a stool in several Bauhaus buildings, including the cafeteria. The permanently installed auditorium seating was realised with foldable Breuer tubular steel furniture. In 1926, together with his fellow countryman Kálmán Lengyel, he established a start-up business named Standard-Möbel in Berlin which dealt with the production and distribution of tubular steel furniture. At that time, the young company already offered a number of different models, but no tubular steel cantilever chairs. “Metal furniture is part of a more modern room,” Breuer wrote, because “furniture, even the walls of a room, are no longer opulent, monumental, (…) they are rather cut out airy, (…) sketched into the room; they neither hinder movement nor the view through the room.”