Gewerbemuseum Winterthur: Wood Loop – Auf Biegen und Brechen

At the risk of upsetting furniture historians, wood is probably the longest serving material in furniture design.

It is also one of the most deceptively complex and hard to work materials in furniture design.

For all bending, shaping and moulding pieces of solid wood is a process that has long fascinated and infuriated designers and architects in equal measure.

From Michael Thonet‘s ground breaking research in the 19th century, over the efforts of Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer or Charles Eames in the 20th and onto Christian Kuhn and Serge Lunin’s development of the dukta* process in the 21st, the desire to shape and form wood as easily as one can bend metal or mould plastic has been a driving force in the development of popular design and architecture.

On Saturday November 17th the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur will open “Wood Loop – Auf Biegen und Brechen” a new exhibition looking at the use of wood in furniture design over the years, but for all the use of bent wood in it is multifarious forms.

The title is of course a reference to Michael Thonet’s singular maxim. Bend or Break.

In addition to an exhibition presenting a range of classic and contemporary examples of bent wood furniture, “Wood Loop – Auf Biegen und Brechen” promises an in-depth exploration of the dukta process and its development history, while for “Atelier dukta” seven architect and design studios have each developed a project specially for the exhibition.

We’ve not seen the exhibition yet and so obviously can’t make any comment on how well it achieves it goals or how deeply it explores the subject matter.

However as an idea for an exhibition we find it absolutely fascinating and certainly as subject it has the scope and depth to provide a truly rewarding experience.

And all who can make it to the the opening on Saturday afternoon are guaranteed a special treat; our old chums from the Thonet wood bending team will be on hand to present a live demonstration of Michael Thonet’s revolutionary process. And don’t be scared to ask if you can have a go. They usually say yes….

Wood Loop – Auf Biegen und Brechen runs at the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur Kirchplatz 14 CH-8400 Winterthur from November 17th 2012 until April 21st 2013.

In addition to the exhibition the museum have also organised the de rigueur fringe programme. Full details can be found at

*The dukta process was developed by Christian Kuhn and Serge Lunin in a joint project with academic and industry partners. It involves making small incisions in the wood in order to increase flexibility….

Gewerbemuseum Winterthur Wood Loop Auf Biegen und Brechen Michael Thonet

Biegen oder Brechen. Michael Thonet the father of all wood benders.

Gewerbemuseum Winterthur Wood Loop Auf Biegen und Brechen Thonet

And the process developed by Michael Thonet is still practised today. (Here at the Thonet Factory in Frankenberg (Eder))


Marcel Breuer design and architecture Bauhaus dessau Isokon moulded plywood chair

Moulded plywood furniture by Marcel Breuer for Isokon, London (1936)

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