I honestly cannot wait to share the history of this chair with you. It really is AN ICON. The first of it’s kind, and one of the (if not the) most progressive seating design’s of the modern age. So let’s get to it!
As it is now known, the Wassily Chair was created in 1926, by Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus Institution in Dessau, Germany. Originally named the ‘Model B3 Chair’, it was the first piece of seating furniture in the history of design to be made from seamless, bent, tubular steel. Design revolutions are often connected to the advancement in materials and technology, and this chair was exactly that; Breuer found his inspiration for the design from his purchase of the first bicycle in 1925. He was impressed by the weightlessness and strength of the material, but especially the seamless bent in the handlebars. The gave birth to the brain child that was the Model B3 Chair. Breuer was only 23 years old.
Unbelievably, this chair was his first design with the tubular steel material. He was able to create a sleek skeleton-like construction from the bent steel, moving from conventional solid, weighty, upholstered seating design. Stretched pieces of reinforced canvas were used for the seat and back, later being replaced by leather, when the chairs went back into production after World War II. Regardless, Breuer had created a seamless, innovative design that remains progressive, even next to the modern design industries most recent creations.
It is thought that a lot of Marcel Breuer’s inspiration came from his long affinity with Bauhaus. He attended the Bauhaus from 1920 to 1924 and became head of it’s carpentry workshop in 1925. This is where he formed a friendship with fellow Bauhaus tutor Wassily Kandinsky, of whom formed a fond admiration Breuer’s creation: The Model B3 Chair, so much so that he had Breuer make one for himself. Decades later the B3 was renamed the ‘Wassily’ when it was re-released by Italian manufacture Gavina, who had learned of the Kandinsky connection in their research of the history of the chair.
Although this design has been around for decades, I feel as though it’s made a real resurgence over the past couple of years amongst the latest design conscious generations. The Wassily has been massed produced since the 1920’s and apart from the change in material for the seating, the core design has never changed. Breuer spoke of the chair as “his most extreme work…the least artistic, the most logical, and the least ‘cosy’” (Moma.org). For something he saw as so basic and functional, it’s become ‘the influencer’ of the modern furniture world. That right there, is clever design. Although the patent for the design has expired, if you want the ‘original’, Knoll hold the trademark name rights for the original design. However, we see this iconic chair reproduced and copied worldwide under different names.
I’ve honestly appreciated the progressive, sleek, modernist design and aesthetic of this chair for a long time. But to also learn that it was loved by one of my favourite artists makes it even more iconic. I feel I should have known that it was renamed after Kandinsky…! But that’s the whole reason I started these posts: to learn and to research designs that I really love. I hope you’ve found this honestly as interesting as I did!