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Thonet and 100 years of love for Bauhaus

Thonet factory

The Thonet tubular steel furniture – an invention from the Bauhaus era
Today, we take the form and aesthetics of tubular steel furniture for granted. They represent legendary
milestones in design history. Art historians and materials scientists have been dealing with the details
of the development of this design innovation for a long time. When were each of the particular designs
created? How did the first tubular steel furniture designers influence each other? After the end of the
First World War, society and politics in Germany were struck by a general crisis, which also shook the
foundations of everyday aesthetic forms and provoked changes. In 1919, the first post-war year, not
only was the Bauhaus in Weimar established but the National Assembly discussed the Weimar
Constitution right next door in the theatre, and the Treaty of Versailles divided society. First influenced
by expressionism and the Dutch De Stijl movement, several designers, architects and craftsmen
started looking for new technologies and forms in the 1920s. For the first time in furniture making, they
began experimenting with tubular steel as a material. The concurrence of several factors contributed
to the fame and sustainable success of Thonet’s tubular steel furniture. There was the New Building
design movement that developed with manifold tendencies, and the aesthetic-cultural educational
institution Bauhaus, which repeatedly changed locations due to political changes and changes in its
conceptual strategy resulting from its own development. The Bauhaus is a decisive point of reference,
but it was not the birthplace of the new furniture. Thonet, already well-known for its diversified
collection of bentwood furniture at the time and as an expanding company with international standing,
offered itself as a natural partner for those designers who were striving towards typification in
architecture and interior design. Thonet, after all, was a pioneer in the division of labour and the
modular principle in furniture production. In addition to Michael Thonet, other pioneers of modernism
including Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos and Bruno Paul had already designed bentwood furniture, and
some of it was prefabricated in individual parts and could be disassembled.

( this text comes from the official Thonet siote)

ftn-books has acquired a small collection of commemorative Thonet publications which are now available at

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