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May 2018

Studying on Thonet for 85 years – tubular steel cantilever chairs at the Leipzig National Library    

The landmarked main building of the splendid library in the centre of Leipzig is characterised by impressive statues, busts and golden decorative elements from the turn of the past century. In contrast with the stony late Wilhelmine pathos of the over 100 years old building, objective functional influences of the Bauhaus already moved into the natural science reading hall in 1933: To this day, studies and research can be done at over 100 workplaces on iconic Thonet tubular steel cantilever chairs model S 43 F (design and artistic copyright: Mart Stam). Desks lined up accurately with classic lamps from the 1920s underline the straight-lined and reduced look of the around 300 m² large rectangular hall.


The furniture manufacturer Thonet for the first time supplied the Leipzig National Library in 1933 with 100 pieces of the tubular steel chair S 43 F (with armrests), which had been designed only a few years before by the Bauhaus teacher Mart Stam. The comfortable cantilever chairs provide maximum sitting comfort due to their light flexing and enable a relaxed sitting position – even during long workdays. With their reduced and clear form they give timeless charm to the light-flooded reading hall. The black of the moulded plywood elements of seat, backrest and armrest reappears on the desks, which offer room for two chairs each. Due to World War II and the foundation of the German Democratic Republic it was impossible for decades to add any additional chairs to the reading hall. Therefore, Thonet received an inquiry for the addition to the existing furniture in the natural science reading hall only after the reunification of Germany: In 2002, after more than 70 years, the Frankenberg based company once again delivered eight cantilever chairs model S 43 F, also in black, and repaired two of the existing chairs. The majority of the original chairs are still being used in the Leipzig National Library today; only the tubular steel frames of the historic cantilever chairs had to be renewed in 2006 due to their daily use. All wooden elements of the original chairs were reused, which gives proof of the quality and durability of Thonet furniture.


A gem in Leipzig’s inner city


The Leipzig National Library was inaugurated in 1916 as the “German Library”. Since then, it has been documenting and archiving all German and German language publications in print and audio published since 1913 and making them accessible to the public. The building on Deutscher Platz is among Germany’s most beautiful and expedient library buildings. Since the first foundation  stone was laid, four extensions were added – most recently the futuristic building complex designed by the Stuttgart architect Gabriele Glöckler in collaboration with ZSP Architekten in 2011. In 1990, the German Library merged with the Frankfurt Library – together, the institutions have presented themselves since 2006 under the name “German National Library”.


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