It is very apposite that the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig is currently hosting a special presentation dedicated to the designer Rudolf Horn: for here began the story of one of Rudolf Horn’s more interesting projects, the somewhat unfortunately named Conferstar club chair.
And yes it does look like Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair.
It’s supposed to.
In 1962 Rudolf Horn was sitting in his office in Leipzig and was, by his own admission, fed up. And so decided to visit the Grassi Museum. Where he saw the Barcelona Chair. A chair which interested him less on account of its form or story but because of the spring steel used in the base – a material which was unknown in the DDR and consequently a material with which he had no experience.
Finding himself alone in the exhibition room, curious to experience the qualities of spring steel and empowered by the cheek of youth, Rudolf Horn sat himself, slowly, in the masterwork: “It was uncomfortable”, he recalls, the disappointment of then still audible in his voice, “beautiful, but so uncomfortable!”
And so Rudolf Horn went home to consider how he could make Mies van der Rohe’s classic more comfortable. More fitting.
Attaching a sheet of baking paper to his kitchen wall Rudolf Horn sketched the Barcelona Chair and quickly identified, for him, the weakness in the design: the point where the two arms of the base cross.
The solution for Horn was equally clear: to ensure the required comfort this static point must be made dynamic.
The result was his cantilevered club chair with its sprung base; a base that has always somehow reminded us of a duck.
By way of showing his respect, inspiration and indeed motivation Horn left all other aspects as per the Barcelona Chair.
From 1966 onwards the Conferstar club chair was produced by the company Röhl in Potsdam and was, more or less, only exported outwith the DDR, principally to West Germany. However it was also apparently very popular in Sweden.
We have only ever seen it in museums.
And never been cheeky enough to test it and so see just how comfortable it is………………….