Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Production: 1927 - 30
Manufacturer: Berliner Metallgewerbe Josef Müller, Berlin
Size: 79.5 x 46.5 x 71; seat height 40cms
Material: nickel-plated tubular steel, iron wool
As vice president of the Deutscher Werkbund from 1926 - 32, Mies van der Rohe was entrusted with the realization of the overall Weissenhof Settlement project near Stuttgart when the Werkbund exhibition opened there in 1927. In the course of the preparations he met with Heinz Rasch, Mart Stam, and others in Stuttgart on November 22, 1926. During this meeting, Mart Stam explained his design of a chair without back legs and sketched the same. Since Stam was interested in a cubist, geometrically stringent look, he chose to use lengths of gas piping which were screwed to each other with angle fittings with small radii. “Mies came back from Stuttgart in November 1926 and talked about Mart Stam and his idea for the chair. We had a drawing board on the wall on which Mies drew the Stam chair, as right angles from top to bottom. He even added the sockets and said: “Ugly, these sockets are so ugly. If he had only rounded them off-that would have been much more attractive’ and sketched a curve. The single curve he drew on the Stam sketch gave birth to the new chair.”1 Several Stam chairs were manufactured in the Eisenmöbelfabrik Arnold in Schorndorf near Stuttgart for the interior of a Stam house in the Weissenhof Settlement, but without any sockets of hotmolded iron piping. As the sockets were too soft, the first prototype Stam sat on gave way under his weight. Reinforcements of round iron inserts created a sufficiently stable yet resilient structure. Meanwhile, Mies van der Rohe was experimenting with Mannesmann precision tubular steel, which he bent cold to retain the elastic quality of the thin-walled tubular steel. The semicircular curves of the “front legs”enhance this effect, since they optimally support the springy function of the tubing. Just after Mart Stam, Mies van der Rohe also exhibited his chairs, the first cantilever-based chairs in the Weissenhof Settlement. The flexibility of the structure afforded the same seating comfort otherwise only afforded by upholstered chairs and armchairs, without any of their associated coziness. The delicate lightness of the tubular steel furniture predestined them for the interiors of the New Building movement. In the year of their launch, Mies van der Rohe also applied for a patent for the cantilever in the United States. His application was at first turned down with reference to the American patent Harry E. Nolan had taken out in 1924 (applied for in 1922) which already planned a cantileverbased garden armchair with spiral springs. Only after Mies van der Rohe was able to prove th at this solid chair made of steel round rods could never be springy – he built a prototype for the model, which was never produced – did he receive the patent. A wave of adaptations, improvements and also curios in tubular steel soon appeared as a reaction to the Werkbund exhibition in the Weissenhof Settlement. Today, Mies van der Rohe’s cantilever-based chair is marketed in different versions by Tecta (Lauenförde), Thonet (Frankenberg) and Knoll International. PD
 Sergius Rugenberg (staff member under Mies van der Rohe), 1985; quoted in Der Kragstuhl (Beverungen, Stuhlmuseum Burg Beverungen, 1986).
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe