For just about as long as Thonet have been producing furniture one of the company’s most important designers has been “Thonet Design Team”, a description we’ve always considered to be a rather disparagingly sterile and unnecessarily nebulous description for Thonet’s team of in-house designers.
Every serious contemporary furniture manufacturer has an in-house design team who are responsible for both helping adapt external designers works to the company’s production patterns and also creating new products and/or product families. Traditionally the in-house designers remain quietly anonymous in the background; however, a couple of years ago Thonet decided to start giving credit to those team members who realise their own designs in context of Thonet Design Team projects, without forgetting the contribution made by the rest of the team. Among the first products to benefit from the addition of a designer’s moniker were the S 290 shelving and storage system by Thonet Design Team: Sabine Hutter and S 1200 secretary by Thonet Design Team: Randolf Schott as unveiled at IMM Cologne 2014.
At Orgatec 2014 one of Thonet’s key new launches was the S 95 conference chair programme by Thonet Design Team: Randolf Schott. Available as either a cantilever chair or a swivel chair, and in two backrest heights, all S 95 chairs feature a characteristic opening between backrest and seat, an opening which is more than a just formal nod to the construction principle of the classic Thonet cantilever designs from Mart Stam or Marcel Breuer. “For me the rear side of such a conference chair is the most important side, because that is always the side you see when you enter a room,” explains Randolf Schott, “and here we have created a very transparent chair, which emits a feeling of lightness and openness, and that was important for me.” Equally important in this respect is the form of the cantilever chair foot. The S 95 cantilever chair frames are made from quadratic steel, an unusual but not unknown material for Thonet, and one which comes with its own specific challenges. When you bend round steel tubing you get a nice, smooth curve. When you bend quadratic steel tubing you don’t. Therefore you can either utilise a relatively unaesthetic quadratic joint which makes such a chair less pleasing to approach, or invest the time and effort creating something that flows and gives the chair a much more sympathetic aesthetic. And which of course also gives a visual clue as to the chairs provenance. Only very few manufacturers can achieve such a competent, controlled bending of steel.
Available with either textile covers in a range of colours or Thonet’s new perforated leather covers the Thonet S 95 is a nice new addition to the Thonet programme offering as it does a chair family that is more robust and has a more physical stature that that which was previously available, yet without forcing itself on you. And which retains both an unequivocal Thonet optic and the “quiescent vertical and horizontal lines” and cubic form that Heinz Rasch considered so critical for the success of a cantilever chair.
In addition to the S 95 collection a further major new project being launched by Thonet at Orgatec was also a direct result of the concentrated work of the Thonet Design Team, yet in a much less spectacular context. If every bit as important.
Originally developed in 2001 by Kassel based design studio Lepper Schmidt Sommerlade the A 1700 table family is a central component of the Thonet contract office furniture division, is however over a decade old and in the fast paced world of office furniture due for an overhaul. To this end the Thonet Design Team have now updated the system, principally the leg. As we said spectacular it ain’t. In short the A 1700 table leg has not only received a new tear-drop form, a new cable duct and a new, patented, system to connect legs with table tops, but one can add inlays to the front edge of the new tear drop leg form thus allowing an individual accent to be set and allow the easier integration of the system into a room.
Elsewhere at Orgatec 2014 Thonet presented the S 8000 conference table by Hadi Teherani in a new round version, a version which despite its new curvature loses none of the bombast of the quadratic original, while the S 160, S 170 and S 180 multi-purpose chair families by Delphin Design are now available in eight new colour tones; a new palette which although intended to increase the options available to architects when organising chairs for cafeterias etc, also offer interesting possibilities for the private cafeteria. Or kitchen, as we believe they are more typically referred: and it goes without saying, responsible for the new colour tones was the ubiquitous Thonet Design Team.
Breaking with tradition, and indeed our principles, we use the Thonet press photos of their new products. The reasons are purely technical….