Friday, May 31, 2013

“flowing curves and simple elegance” — the cantilevered MR Chair (named for its designer Mies van der Rohe)

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, designer
German, 1886–1969
Manufactured by Bamberg Metallwerkstätten, Berlin, Neukölln
Armchair (MR20), designed in 1927, manufactured 1931
Nickel-plated steel, steel and cane seat
From the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Photographs by versluis 2013

Although the tubular steel chair was perfected at the Bauhaus in the mid-1920s by the development of Marcel Breuer’s four-legged Club Chair. Equally impressive are Mies van der Rohe’s cantilever tubular steel chairs that were designed and manufactured from 1927–31 and inspired by technology as well as Dutch architect Mart Stam. The MR Chair was a collaboration with designer Lilly Reich. Miesian tubular steel furniture are perfect accents for his architecture, particularly for his residential interiors designed with Reich.

In their very fine biography titled Mies van der Rohe coauthors Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst describe the MR Chair as having “flowing curves and simple elegance.”(1) The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art didactic for this piece explains the chair this way:
The architect and designer Mies van der Rohe asserted, “Form is not the aim of our work but only the result.” With the MR20 chair, Mies aimed to mass-produce inexpensive furniture from innovative materials such as tubular steel. The result was this curvilinear, lightweight chair that comfortably bends beneath the sitter’s weight while maintaining a sleek, elegant appearance. Mies stripped the traditional armchair of its bulk and relied on the light and flexible steel frame and cane seat to provide comfortable support. The fusion of handcrafted detail with modern technology embodies the ideals of the German design school, the Bauhaus (1919–1933). With his contemporaries, Mies the Bauhaus’ last director, brought the design principles of the Bauhaus to America [United States] in the late 1930s.
For further reading about the Bauhaus here is a wonderful reference piece from Archdaily: Infographic: The Bauhaus, Where Form Follows Function.
  1. Schulze, Franz, and Edward Windhorst. Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography. revised ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012. 104-05. Print.

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