If a wooden chair were a technology

Design icons from 1900-1950

From Thonet to Oskar Zieta: A&W presents a selection of design icons from 1900 to the first decade of the 21st century.


Craftsmen still determine the design with individual works. Only Thonet starts its first series furniture. Some designs were so ahead of their time that they are still fresh and modern today.


Thonet brothers


His fans include famous architects and he has influenced many designers. The “Desk Armchair No. 9” (today 209), better known as the “Vienna Armchair”, was designed and manufactured around 1900 by the Thonet brothers (founded in 1849). The most obvious design element, namely the sweeping bar that forms the arm and backrest at the same time, is made of solid, curved beech wood.

The Dane Poul Henningsen enthused in 1927: “This chair perfectly fulfills its task of being a light, comfortable armchair with a low back.” And the Swiss Le Corbusier praised it with the words: “There has never been more elegant and better conception, More precise in execution and more useful. ”Convinced of the unique quality of the furniture, he used it in many of his buildings, for example in the Weissenhof estate in Stuttgart. The Americans George Nelson and Norman Cherner took it as a model for their own chair designs (see Cherner Chair, 1958).



Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Hill House chair

The Scottish all-rounder Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928) was fascinated by the design of chairs. And here his main focus was on the backrest - as with the famous "Hill House" chair, which the Glasgow man designed in 1902 for the house of the same name of the publisher Walter W. Blackie in Helensburgh.

The straight lines in connection with soft curves, an economical decoration, which is limited to a checkerboard pattern and latticework, are typical. The high backrest, which not only distinguishes this piece of furniture, was in stark contrast to the opulent forms of the continental European Art Nouveau and the rather strictly masculine style of the English arts and crafts, and met with little approval in his home country. In stark contrast to Germany and Austria, where the design of the Scots exerted a great influence, especially on Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann.

Mackintosh created the black “Hill House” chair for the bedroom; it stood in a white room with a second chair - the two were deliberately staged as expressly decorative objects. It was not until 1973 that the chair was mass-produced by Cassina.



Otto Blümel

Nymphenburg cloakroom

Versatility characterizes the life and work of Otto Blümel (1881–1973). Born in Augsburg as the son of a lawyer, he began to study architecture at the Technical University of Munich in 1901, which he had to abandon in 1904 after the death of his father. Blümel was friends with Hermann Hesse, for whose books he made illustrations, silhouettes and cover drawings.

He went to the reform-oriented art school of Wilhelm von Debitzsch in Munich and became its employee. In 1907 - the year the Werkbund was founded - he took over the newly established "Furniture Design Class" there, worked for the United Workshops for Art in Crafts "in Munich, and headed their drawing room. During this time his furniture designs were created, of which the “Nymphenburg” coat stand from 1908 is the best known.

It was intended for a long-lost world of coffee and taverns. Nevertheless, it (manufactured by Classicon) still looks fresh and up-to-date over 100 years after its design.



Josef Hoffmann

No. 670

“The“ Sitzmaschine ”from 1907/08, a work by Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956), represents the transition from conventional forms to geometric abstraction. It was made by Jakob and Josef Kohn and can be seen as a bridge between tradition and modernity . This tendency to reduce to geometric shapes - the visible construction of curved square timber, square openwork plywood backrests and semicircular armrests curved backwards - was then typical of the Wiener Werkstätten.

The spheres on it, also a trademark of Hoffmann, are not only a decorative element, they also fulfill a clear function: the rod can be locked between them to incline the backrest, and they give the base frame stability. There were clear forerunners, the most famous being the so-called "Morris Chair" by Philip Webb from 1866 - a typical piece of furniture of the English Arts and Crafts movement. It is assumed that Hoffmann owned the seat machine reed by Wittmann, which was originally "No. 670 "and, depending on the version," No. 669 “, designed for the sanatorium in Purkersdorf. Then it would be part of a total work of art.

Josef Hoffmann is so important for Vienna and the Museum of Applied Art because he is closely connected to the house and was often responsible for the exhibition design. " - Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, director of the Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna


Expressionism and Cubism determine the aesthetics before the World War. And the furniture designs are based on the fine arts. Design is starting to make a name for itself.


Josef Gočár

Glass cabinet

While painters and sculptors created Cubist works in the west, in the east, architects and applied artists set the tone in this style, especially in Prague. They founded clubs and magazines, not only wrote programs and manifestos, but also designed, built and designed their vision of a city and a life of the future. Architect Josef Gocár (1880–1945) is familiar to today's visitors to Prague as the builder of the house “Zur Schwarzen Mutter Gottes”, which was built in 1911/12.

His “glass cabinet” dates from 1913, which dissolves conventional forms without foregoing precision craftsmanship. Almost like in an animated film, the furniture seems to have a life of its own, it seems to dance, to turn. The play with crystalline forms, with refracted and reflected light caused a sensation at the Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in 1914.



Bruno Marstaller

Bema / Moretta

Similar seating first appeared in British Expeditionary Army encampments in Asia and Africa, where officers valued it as comfortable furniture. The chair can be dismantled, takes up little space when packed, is flexible and therefore easily compensates for uneven floors.

Benno Marstaller (1870–1947), founder of the traditional Munich company, turned it into a product for everyday life. The “Bema” chair named after the first two letters of Marstaller's first and last name is still in production today.

The first copy was allegedly received by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1917. The version reproduced by Zanotta (picture) is called “Moretta”. The design served as a model for director's chairs as well as the Swiss designer Wilhelm Kienzle for his “colonial armchair” (around 1928), which was sold by Schweizerischer Wohnbedarf. The Dane Kaare Klint interpreted it as a “safari” armchair for Rasmussen (around 1933). The main differences are in the material and details of the legs and in the upholstery. With it, robustness and archaism moved into the living room.

© Museum of East Bohemia / Miroslav Benes
© Zanotta


New objectivity: democratic design was the order of the day, the avant-garde of designers and architects studied at the Bauhaus, and tubular steel became the favorite material of classical modernism.


Marcel Breuer

High chair

“The chairs designed by Marcel Breuer (1902–1981) were manufactured in 1924 in the Bauhaus joinery in Weimar. According to the workshop reports, more than forty children's chairs were produced in the summer of the same year, which apparently had been commissioned by a kindergarten. The dimensions of the chairs are based on the size of the children of different ages: they “grow” with them, so to speak. The chairs belong to Breuer's early pieces of furniture, which are to be understood as sculptural constructions in which a distinction is made between a supporting frame made of slim profiles and surfaces made of thin materials. Although the rules of De Stijl, for example, led to an intensive discussion, Breuer's design was not based on an artistic but rather a functional approach. The chairs were also durable, inexpensive, simply beautiful and suitable for serial production. In doing so, they fulfilled the principles formulated by Walter Gropius for the Bauhaus. " - Annemarie Jaeggi, Director of the Bauhaus Archive, Berlin



Marcel Breuer


It was a bicycle handlebar that is said to have inspired Marcel Breuer (1902–1981) for his experiments with tubular steel. In 1925 the young designer was appointed head of the furniture workshop at the Bauhaus Dessau - and began to deal with the new material for furniture production. “B3”, the most famous of these designs, was used for the living room of the artist and Bauhaus. Colleague Wassily Kandinsky developed, which is why it was later nicknamed the "Wassily chair". The armchair embodies the Bauhaus idea of ​​democratic design: it is light, stable and, thanks to simple plug connections, suitable for mass production. The charm of the then new material is underlined by the open connections, every screw could and should be seen. "B3" was also a new definition of what an armchair can look like: You lean back comfortably on the sloping seat like in a club armchair without having heavy, solid furniture in the apartment. In the 1960s, the Italian company Gavina started a new edition under the name "Wassily Chair", and Knoll International has been producing the Bauhaus classic since taking over the company.



Mart Stam

S 33 cantilever chair

Not only Marcel Breuer experimented with tubular steel in the 1920s, the Dutch architect Mart Stam (1899–1996) also showed a cantilevered tubular steel chair in the exhibition in the Weißenhofsiedlung in 1926. However, his version was a little stiffer and less flexible than Marcel Breuer's model "B32", also designed in 1926, which could easily give way when sitting and, thanks to its elasticity, gave the impression that you were sitting on an air cushion.

Thonet produced "B32" from 1929, whereupon Anton Lorenz, the rights holder of Mart Stam, initiated a copyright dispute. In 1932 Mart Stam was awarded the artistic authorship of the cubic cantilever chair, Marcel Breuer initially received no royalties for the "B32", which - albeit as the "S32" - is still produced by Thonet today. In contrast, Mies van der Rohe, whose cantilever chairs "MR10" and "MR20" were manufactured from 1927, was able to enforce his copyright with the argument that the round front legs were his invention.



Eileen Gray

Adjustable table

Eileen Gray (1878–1976), undoubtedly one of the most important designers of the 20th century, was the daughter of an Irish-Scottish aristocratic family and went to Paris after completing her studies, where she designed interiors and ran the Jean Désert gallery to sell her furniture. After meeting the Romanian architect Jean Badovici, she concentrated on architecture - and built with and for him the house "E 1027" in Rocquebrune on the Côte d’Azur in 1924.

Gray also designed the interior for the modern house on the cliffs himself - and this is how her most famous furniture was created. Alongside the “Bibendum Chair”, the height-adjustable “Adjustable Table” is her most famous piece. Inspired by Marcel Breuer's tubular steel experiments at the Bauhaus Dessau, Gray worked with the new material, but made it appear more elegant and less rationalistic. Allegedly, when Gray was designing the table, he thought of one of her sisters who loved to have breakfast in bed. The piece is one of the most copied design classics and is edited by Classicon.



The global economic crisis and the Blue Angel, twelve-tone music and people's receivers - a decade full of contrasts brought simple and innovative design concepts in plywood and sheet steel.


Christian Dell

6631 luxury

Under its light, criminals confessed - in fictional and real life. The “Luxus 6631” by Christian Dell (1893–1974) was not only on the desks of TV inspectors like Haferkamp and Keller, but also in many workrooms of the police authorities and not only there. It was the most common desk lamp in German offices in the 1950s.

That was because the lamp, which the trained silversmith and later head of the metal workshop at the Weimar Bauhaus designed around 1934 for the lamp factory Gebrüder Kaiser & Co., was functional and formally pointed to the future. The asymmetrical shape of the lampshade made of painted sheet steel ensures optimal light diffusion. Christian Dell patented the typical ball joint at the foot of the plate through which the cable was passed. The famous work lamp is still in production, today by Fritz Hansen.



Hans Coray

Landi chair

“The chair is rightly considered the supreme discipline for designers: Although the framework conditions such as seat height, number of legs and structural requirements are tight, hundreds of new models are developed every year. In this respect, chairs reflect the “vital ideas” and the design context of the time they were created particularly well. This also applies to the “Landi chair” by Hans Coray (1906–1991), which he designed for the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition. Coray wanted to represent the Swiss economy in a contemporary way. Without its own raw materials, the industry relied on energy-intensive aluminum production early on, which was cheap thanks to the hydropower from the mountains. Contemporaries wrote enthusiastically about "the white coal", which made the "Landi" an unbelievably light, ergonomic, springy, stackable and elegant chair possible in the first place. On the other hand, the chair represented a modern and elegant alternative to the national formal vocabulary of those years: "Only genuine with 91 holes, it is being reissued by Westermann today." - Christian Brändle, director of the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich



Holger Nielsen

Vipp pedal bin

The Dane Holger Nielsen (1911–1992) won a car in 1931 with a lottery ticket. Unfortunately, he was only 17 years old and did not have a driver's license. He sold the car and used the proceeds to buy a metal lathe. Just eight years later, the newlywed designed a trash can for his wife's hairdressing salon, Marie Axelsen. The highlight: the bucket could be opened with a movement of the foot thanks to a mechanism.

What at first was just a practical one-off soon developed into a series model, because Marie's customers ordered the product for her men’s medical practices. Until the company's founder died, the “Vipp” pedal bin was purely a product for major customers. When his youngest daughter Jette Egelund took over the company, she opened up another line of business: From then on, the pedal bin also conquered private households. The Danish company Vipp still makes the bucket almost true to the original.



Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy, Juan Kurchan, Antonio Bonet

Butterfly chair

In 1939, three young Argentinian designers named Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy (1914–1977), Juan Kurchan (1913–1975) and Antonio Bonet (1913–1989), a student of Le Corbusier, got to the heart of what design theorists were talking about. They created comfortable, practical seating furniture that was light, stackable and, on top of that, inexpensive to manufacture.

The "Butterfly Chair" was based on the principle of the classic folding stool, combined with the lightness of a hammock. A tubular steel frame forms four corner points from which a leather seat is hung. The design is sustainable because the cover can be exchanged without changing the frame. The uncomplicated and comfortable armchair was manufactured by Artek-Pascoe from 1941, and Knoll acquired the rights in 1947. In the 1950s, the “Butterfly Chair” became a cult object - today it is produced by Manufakturplus.


After the Second World War, the heyday of American and Italian design began. New plastics and serial production technologies are displacing the hand-made piece of furniture.


Finn Juhl


Finn Juhl (1912–1989) is one of the pioneers of Danish modernism. The designer, who was born in Frederiksborg, studied architecture, but only built a few houses and soon concentrated on designing furniture. He saw his designs as a way to give expression to spaces. Craftsmanship, furniture and fine art were the triad with which Finn Juhl designed rooms.

His “Pelikan” armchair, designed in 1940, brings all three together: a sculptural, organic shape, a playful use of color, perfect workmanship of the hand-sewn covers and a high level of comfort. When the eccentric armchair first hit the market in small numbers, critics called it “a tired walrus”. Today the "Pelikan" is one of the most sought-after Juhl designs and was reissued in 2003 by the Danish manufacturer Onecollection. For the 70th birthday, a Pelikan re-edition with upholstered buttons was brought onto the market.



Hans Wegner


Unlike Alvar Aalto, who developed bending techniques for plywood to create modern wooden seating furniture, the Danish cabinet maker and designer Hans Wegner (1914–2007) stuck to traditional woodworking techniques. His “Peacock” armchair, presented in 1947, is a modern variation on the classic English Windsor chair. He opened the typical backrest made of twisted rods and flattened the struts at the point where the shoulder blades rest, so that they are reminiscent of peacock eyes.

In this way he combined tried and tested forms, natural materials and traditional craftsmanship. "A good chair is a task that can never be fully completed," Wegner once said, and chairs were the theme of his life. During his more than 70 years of work, he has designed more than 500 chairs. The Peacock Chair was initially produced by Carl Hansen & Søn, and since 1991 by PP Møbler.



Ray and Charles Eames

La chaise

The seat sculpture “La Chaise”, with which Charles (1907–1978) and Ray Eames (1912–1988) took part in the MoMA 1948 competition “Low-Cost-Furniture-Design”, did not win a prize, but it caused a stir its flowing, elegant shape caused a sensation. It was especially recognized in the catalog, which did not appear until 1950 because of the large number of participants and the lengthy production of the prototypes.

“La Chaise” - the name is on the one hand the couple's homage to the Franco-American sculptor Gaston Lachaise, on the other hand it means “chair”. It consists of two wafer-thin fiberglass shells glued together. Hard rubber washers keep them at a distance, the cavity was filled with styrene. The opening in the back also visually emphasizes the lightness of the construction. The five rods, some of which are inclined, and the wooden base make the furniture appear to be floating. "La Chaise" has been produced by Vitra since 1990.



Ray and Charles Eames


At first it was only available in parchment white, light and dark gray. But a little later, other colors were added. The “RAR” was one of a series of furniture that Charles (1907–1978) and Ray Eames (1912–1988) built in 1950 for the MoMA's “Low-Cost Furniture Design” competition. The team had an inexpensive, lightweight and versatile chair for young families in mind - a chair with a one-piece seat-back shell that was to be punched from a continuous sheet of metal.

But it quickly turned out that the production was too complex and therefore expensive. In search of a cheaper material, the Americans came across Zenith Plastics, which had manufactured radar screens from fiberglass-reinforced plastic during the war. The rocking chair was one of the first variants manufactured by Herman Miller. Today the "RAR" is manufactured by Vitra in Weil am Rhein.



Carlo Mollino


“On the one hand, this table stands for the heyday of Italian design in the post-war period and is also the work of an unmistakable, eccentric individual. Carlo Mollino (1905–1973) had the sensitivity of a surrealist, the shape of the table top can be traced directly back to the drawing of a reclining figure by the surrealist artist Leonor Fini. It is a fantastic table whose curvy shapes explore the possibilities of plywood as a material. The contrast between the warm, corrugated wood and the cold, hard glass of the table top gives “Arabesco” something sculptural. I was delighted to have the table that Zanotta produces in the V&A collection - and we'll be showing it when we open the new furniture gallery at the end of 2012. " - Martin Roth, Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London



The years of the economic miracle brought toast Hawaii, film noir and modern elegance: flowing shapes and fine lines determine the design. So trend-setting that they don't look old even today.


Rosemarie and Rico Baltensweiler

Type 600

The Swiss interior designer Rosemarie Baltensweiler (* 1920) and her husband Rico (1920–1987), an engineer with the Swiss Federal Railways, originally built the "Type 600" luminaire for their own use. They lacked flexible light in the living room, so they developed the floor lamp, which, with six joints, offered the greatest possible mobility and, despite all its elegance, was still sufficiently stable. The delicate nature not only convinced the designers, but also friends, customers and the manufacturer Knoll International.

In 1956, Le Corbusier used “Type 600” to furnish a model apartment, two years later she had an appearance in the ultra-modern film house of Jacques Tati's “Mon Oncle”, and in 1957 it was included in the “New Collection” in Munich. With the "Type 600" the foundation stone was laid for the Baltensweiler light manufacturer, which today specializes in LED lights. As a homage to the light bulb, the floor lamp was launched in autumn 2011 as a numbered and limited edition.



Arne Jacobsen


The Dane Arne Jacobsen (1902–1971) was actually extremely conservative: He was enthusiastic about antiques, liked fine wines, was a passionate botanist and led a very quiet life. And yet his designs were revolutionary, even if Jacobsen called himself a "utility art designer". With the famous three-legged “Myren” (ant), he created the first intelligent and stackable canteen chair in history in 1952.

The continuous shape of the plywood with the strikingly drawn-in waist gave the chair its name, but also had an important function: the very narrow connection between the seat and the backrest gives the chair a little that makes it extremely comfortable. Today the Fritz Hansen company produces the chair as the “3100” model in many colors and two variants: one with three and one with four legs (the latter, however, only after the designer has passed away).



Egon Eiermann

Table frame 1

When architect Egon Eiermann (1904–1970) designed his famous table frame, he had a drawing table in mind. A forerunner with a simple cross brace can already be found in 1943 in the drawing room of Eiermann's construction management barracks in Beelitz near Berlin. The frame, which has been continuously developed, was temporarily manufactured in the locksmith's shop of the TH Karlsruhe, the university where Eiermann taught. Two H-shaped tubular steel frames on the side are stabilized by an inclined tubular cross welded in between.

Eiermann's buildings created lightness through large glass surfaces, protruding canopies and floating walkways, such as the German Pavilion for the 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels, which he designed with Sep Ruf. His furniture combines versatility and pragmatism. The architect used the substructure sometimes as the base of the altar for the St. Matthew's Church in Pforzheim, sometimes as the frame for the modern clavicord that was shown at the Triennale in Milan in 1954. The Eiermann table frames (in addition to the original design, there is a later version that can be dismantled) is now offered by the manufacturer Richard Lampert.



Willi Guhl

Garden chair

In the 1950s, the Swiss cement manufacturer Eternit approached the Zurich School of Applied Arts in search of new uses for a material that until then had primarily been used in architecture. Willy Guhl (1915–2004), then a professor at the university, was enthusiastic about the idea of ​​designing with concrete. He designed the "elephant ear", flower pots, sand boxes - and the legendary bow-shaped garden chair. Its width corresponds exactly to the width of a machine-made Eternit plate.

The loop was formed while the material was still wet. The rocking chair, initially called the “beach chair”, was an immediate success. He combined lightness with weight, robustness with elegance, sitting close to the floor with luxury - and all of this with low production costs. MoMA in New York ordered a copy for its collection - and sent it back two weeks later because the material contained asbestos fibers. Today Eternit manufactures the "garden chair" asbestos-free, with indentations in the back that provide more stability.



Eero Saardines


The straight lines of the Bauhaus designers were anathema to the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen (1910–1961). Softly flowing, organic forms were his answer to their functionalist austerity, and the optimistic, future-oriented America of the 50s was the perfect setting for these forms: Saarinen built the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the TWA terminal of JFK Airport in New York.

The son of Finnish immigrants became famous as a furniture designer in 1955 with the “Pedestal Group”: dining table, side table, stool and chairs that stood on one foot. Saarinen himself said about the "Tulip Chair": “I wanted to clean up the miserable tangle of legs that makes our homes a restless world. I wanted a chair that was one unit. All the great seating in history, from Tutankhamun's throne to Thomas Chippendale's chairs, was a structural whole. " The tulip chair is manufactured by Knoll International.



George Nelson

Coconut Chair

The “Coconut Chair” by US designer George Nelson (1908–1986) from 1955 is considered a piece of furniture that anticipated the “Form follows Fun” slogan of the 1960s, as it allowed an unconventional way of sitting. The inspiration for its adventurous shape came from dividing a coconut, the outer white shell symbolizes the pulp, the inner black pad the outer shell of the nut.

That this shape was in the air in the mid-1950s is also proven by Eero Saarinen's nutshell-like Kresge Auditorium for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which many cite as the model for Nelson's armchair. The early version of the chair still consisted of a bent sheet steel, foam padding and synthetic leather cover. Herman Miller later made the armchair out of fiberglass-reinforced polyester, with a textile or leather cover. Vitra has been producing the "Coconut Chair" since 1988.



Dieter Rams, Hans Gugelot


The radio-phono combination “SK 4” looks like a “UFO under steam locomotives” compared to the radio models of the kidney table era, wrote the “Spiegel” once. Hans Gugelot (1920–1965), lecturer at the Ulm School of Design, and Dieter Rams (* 1932), then 23 years old and employed by Braun as an architect, originally planned a body made entirely of white painted sheet metal, which was cheaper than traditional ones Wooden cabinet. Only the sides should be made of maple. The vibrations of the built-in loudspeaker set the intended sheet metal cover in motion, it rattled. An alternative was needed.

Dieter Rams suggested using a cover made of transparent acrylic glass. He went to Ulm, discussed the new solution extensively with Gugelot, and both created a new type of product with a transparent cover. Whether out of mockery or in recognition: Soon the “SK 4”, which came onto the market in 1956, was only called “Snow White's Coffin”. A milestone in Braun design and also one for Dieter Rams, who was chief designer at Braun from 1961 to 1995. The contrast between the straight case and the organically shaped pick-up that Wilhelm Wagenfeld had already designed is attractive, if not in the interests of the two designers.



George Nelson


It's not necessarily comfortable, but it's funny. George Nelson's “Marshmallow” sofa (1956) is a pioneer of Pop Art in design. The unusual sofa came about by chance: George Nelson (1917–1986) and Irving Harper, a designer he employed, were visited by an inventor who introduced them to glass for plastic injection. The two of them hung 18 of these discs on a steel frame and liked it.

The plastic injection disks proved a little inconvenient, but the idea for “Marshmallow” was born - colorful plastic cushions that are mounted on a frame and appear to float in the air. Manufacturer Herman Miller took a bite immediately and produced the sofa. First the pillows were covered with fabric, later with vinyl so that the candy colors shine more intensely. Today it is produced by Vitra.



Ray and Charles Eames

Lounge chair

"As warm and ready to receive as a well-worn baseball glove" Ray (1912–1988) and Charles Eames (1907–1978) wanted the look of their “lounge chair”. The modern version of a club chair with ottoman has become a bit more elegant than that. Although the designer couple was otherwise committed to creating affordable pieces of furniture, the “Lounge Chair” was a real luxury item from the start, especially since it had to be partly factory-made and partly handmade.

That did not stand in the way of his success, he is a bestseller of the successful designer couple. The three bowls were originally veneered with rosewood, the leather cushions on them were filled with duck feathers and down and foam. Today the filling consists of Dracon and foam, the leather is also available in white and the veneer in walnut or black cherry. The “Lounge Chair” is manufactured by Herman Miller (USA) and Vitra (Europe).



Bruno Munari


"Tobacco ash on a beautiful, yellow majolica plate can be pretty to look at, but what makes the ensemble unsightly is the inevitable addition of the cigarette butt." - with these words the non-smoker Bruno Munari (1907–1998) describes the motivation for his ashtray design “Cubo” from 1957. In a square cover there is a four-fold metal strip, which has an opening on the top, in the ash and Stubs disappear. Nothing falls out when you change the position of the ashtray. The tape can be easily pulled out of the housing for emptying. “Cubo”, produced by Bruno Danese to this day, is one of those everyday objects that simply cannot be made better because they follow a logical sequence of elementary structures. This corresponds to the intention of its designer, the pursuit of simplification: "By eliminating the superfluous, you create the essential."



Giò Ponti

Superleggera 669

The architect and designer Giò Ponti (1891–1979) simply threw the result of his many years of research and development work out the window. “Superleggera” fell four floors down, hitting the street as bouncy as a ball without breaking. Ponti's creativity knew no bounds. He saw ornaments as a natural part of his work. Rhombic shapes, for example, were able to take on both decorative and constructive tasks.

The “Superleggera”, still the super light weight among chairs at 1.7 kilograms, is the result of a multi-stage process of improvement. The starting point was the traditional “Chiavari” chair. Ponti's reinterpretation from 1949 is still crude and difficult. “La Leggera” from 1951, made of round ash wood elements, looks far more elegant. Ponti created many residential and commercial buildings as well as design objects before "Superleggera" appeared in 1957. With the triangular cross-section of the components, fixed connections and a light mesh, Ponti saves material and weight. Cassina still produces the “Superleggera” today.



Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni


The peculiarity of designing essential things on the one hand, but also always giving them a playful, ironic component, characterizes many Italian designers. The brothers Achille (1918–2002) and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (1913– 1968) sometimes took it to extremes. Their “Mezzadro” stool, which they designed as early as 1957, is reminiscent of the work of Marcel Duchamp: unrelated, prefabricated parts are composed into a usable object. The “objets trouvés” played an important role in the life of the brothers. Her studio was full of it, and Achille, the first A&W designer of the year in 1997, even had an eel fishing boat in his apartment.

At the beginning, the “mezzadro” (in German: half-tenant, referring to the tractor seat) evoked more amusement than a desire to buy. And it was not until the 1970s that Zanotta put the seating furniture into production. From then on it populated restaurants, bars and offices. In 1972 the seat was honored in the famous exhibition "Italy, the New Domestic Landscape" at the New York MoMA.



Poul Henningsen


When the Danish architects Eva and Nils Koppel were looking for a new, large luminaire for their Langelinie pavilion in Copenhagen in 1957, everything had to be done quickly. For the new building with a view of the lake, which is still used today as a destination and location for family celebrations and state banquets, they looked for a spectacular lighting option and turned to Poul Henningsen (1894–1967). In 1925 he presented the first "PH lamp" named after his initials and since then he has developed many lamps with staggered light control elements that give the electric light an atmospheric effect. Henningsen wanted the light to be festive and functional.

For the “Artichoke” (also known as “cones”) he resorted to an unrealized design. Instead of regularly staggering rings around the light source, as was previously the case, he attached lamellas made of copper (offset on twelve levels) to a steel frame. The lamp produced by Louis Poulsen does not dazzle from any angle.



Norman Cherner


Under the influence of the German Bauhaus, the designer Norman Cherner (1920–1987), who was born in Brooklyn / New York, worked with industrially manufactured houses, for which he also designed furniture. In the 1940s, Cherner taught at the Fine Art Department of Columbia University and a little later was a lecturer at MoMA. Cherner was a pioneer in the field of prefabricated house construction, but the designer, who also worked in the areas of graphics, glass and light, achieved world fame with his “Cherner Chair” from 1958, even if Paul Goldman as an author repeatedly in the design literature of the chair is called. It is a successful mixture of five to 15-layer plywood and solid wood.

The "Pretzel Chair" designed by George Nelson in 1952 and Thonet's "Armchair No. 9", also known as the "Armchair Le Corbusier" from 1904, are named as models for this seating furniture with the dynamically curved armrests. In 1999, Cherner's sons Benjamin and Thomas began re-launching the chairs under the company name Cherner, based on the original drawings and dimensions.



Arne Jacobsen

Egg chair

The SAS building in Copenhagen opened at the end of the 1950s, when the architecture was just in the heyday of the “International Style”. It was the tallest structure in Scandinavia, a tower made of glass and steel, the administrative headquarters of the Scandinavian airline and a hotel. It was designed by Arne Jacobsen (1902–1971), who was not only responsible for the architecture, but also for the entire design concept of the house.

From futuristic cutlery to lights and fabrics to furniture. For the suites and the lobby he designed the "Egg", the modern version of a comfortable wing chair, the oval cocoon of which is reminiscent of a broken egg shell. The covering of the seat shell involved a lot of manual work, which is why the manufacturer Fritz Hansen has only produced six to seven pieces a week to this day. Together with the “swan”, the organically shaped swivel armchair formed a sculptural contrast to the severity of the building - and quickly became a symbol of jet-set elegance.