Design: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1927), reinterpretation: Besau Marguerre (2018)
The Bauhaus turns 100 – and Thonet will also celebrate the occasion with a limited anniversary edition of the famous cantilever chair S 533 F by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The successful Hamburg based design duo Besau Marguerre developed two new versions of the S 533 F with armrests: subtly coordinated, sensual colours and materials bring the iconic tubular steel chair into our present time. The two new versions of the anniversary edition – one with a frame in pearl gloss chrome and anthracite leather, the other in champagne chrome with leather in soft rose – combine the objectivity of the Bauhaus with a warm, haptic look and feel.
“The intentional restraint in the use of materials, the elegance of the lines and transparency in effect as the characteristics of the S 533 tempted us to pick up Mies van der Rohe’s motto ‘less is more’ and to establish a contrast between the objectivity and softness,” Eva Marguerre describes the approach she and Marcel Besau took. For their reinterpretation of the S 533 F, which will be available starting September 2018 in a limited edition of 100 copies each in grey and rose, they banked on warm colours and materials. The result is two complementary versions that add to each other and, at the same time, set highlights as solitary pieces.
The classic-elegant version with a frame in pearl gloss chrome and anthracite, nubuck-effect bend leather and the bright counterpart with a frame in matte champagne chrome and a cover in rose-coloured nubuck leather both allude to the warm patina of the first cantilever chairs from the 1920s and 1930s, when the frames were nickel-plated.
The anniversary editions of the cantilever chair also owe their special seating comfort to their constant supple flexing. This effect results from the fact that Mies van der Rohe conceived the front of the tubular steel frame as a large arch made of hardened tubular spring steel, allowing the S 533 to adjust to the free movement of its users due to its flexing power, making additional upholstery unnecessary.
“Working with such a striking design was an extremely exciting challenge for us. While most designs from the 1920s were rather simple and function, this chair clearly reveals the architect’s signature: here, Mies combines functionality and comfort with timeless aesthetics – and that’s precisely what we wanted to bring into the present. The adaptability of the Bauhaus classic was striking to us, and it quickly became clear that the S 533 F deserved more than just one reinterpretation. So we came up with the idea for this duo,” says Marcel Besau.
The birth of the cantilever chair
As the director of the Werkbund exhibit “The Dwelling” in Stuttgart, which became famous in 1927 as the Weissenhof Estate, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe learned of the experiment of his Dutch colleague Mart Stam. In 1926, Stam presented his groundbreaking design of a cantilever chair without back legs, which was based on two cubes stacked one on top of the other. Mies van der Rohe is said to have replaced the cubes in his cantilever design with a generous arch, which allowed the edgy chair model to become flexible. Mart Stam’s prototype was made of gas pipes and hence was static – it didn’t flex. Bends had to be constructed with “elbow joints”. Mies van der Rohe, however, used the cold bent tubular steel technique, which allowed for the preservation of the flexible properties of the material. Stam’s model as well as Mies van der Rohe’s chair were presented in the Stuttgart Weissenhof Estate in 1927. Since 1932, the S 533 has been a constant element in Thonet’s program, at first under the name model no. MR 533, today under the name S 533. The new anniversary edition makes the tubular steel chair once again available in a version with armrests (S 533 F).
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Born 1886 in Aachen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe joined the architectural office of Peter Behrens at the age of 22, where he met Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. After his beginnings as a villa architect he became famous due to a spectacular project, his plate-glass façade high-rise building at the Bahnhof Friedrichstraße in Berlin. Mies van der Rohe soon became the protagonist of the innovative glass and skeleton constructions of his time. With his spaces based on open floor plans and elegant furniture designs, he became the decisive pioneer of a comprehensive stylistic change. In 1925, he took over the artistic direction of the Werkbund exhibit “The Dwelling”, which became world-famous as the Weissenhof Estate. In 1930, recommended by Walter Gropius, he became the director of the Bauhaus in Dessau, and initiated its self-dissolution in 1933 – in part to prevent the Nazis from gaining control over it.
In 1938 he accepted an invitation to move to Chicago to take over the direction of the architecture department at Armour Institute, the later Illinois Institute of Technology. This move would be a decisive step in his career and life – he became one of the most influential architects in the world. His steel skeleton buildings with large-scale plate-glass windows such as the Seagram Building in New York (1958) and the National Gallery in Berlin (1968) are landmarks of modern architecture. His furniture designs became famous, as well; they were all side products of his architectural commissions. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe died in 1969 in Chicago.
Eva Marguerre (born 1983) and Marcel Besau (born 1980) both studied product design as well as exhibition and graphic design. In 2011, they founded their design studio Besau-Marguerre in Hamburg. They describe their studio in the district of Eimsbüttel as a melting pot of different design disciplines where the most diverse projects from the fields of product design, interior design, styling and visual communication are realised. Their design activities focus on questions such as “How do we experience objects? How do we interact with them? In what way do we use products and how will we remember them later?”
In addition to form and function, colour and materials play an important role in their projects, but the design duo always keeps an eye on the context. Their common interdisciplinary design approach generates extraordinary ideas and results in objects that often unite an experimental use of unusual materials with a striking colour design. The predominant goal of the two designers is to evoke emotions and sensual experiences, with the creation of prototypes and use of digital design tools being self-evident elements of the design process.
The client portfolio of Besau-Marguerre includes renowned design labels such as artek, e15, Vitra and authentics.
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