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Stuhl no. 14 Miniature
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Michael Thonet

Michael Thonet (born 2. July 1796 in Boppard/Germany; died 3. March 1871 in Vienna/Austria) is probably less important to furniture design for what he did than how he did it. Where his 1859 "Chair No. 14" is without question one of the classics of world furniture design, much more important is the process behind the chairs construction. The son of a tanner Thonet undertook a carpentry apprenticeship before setting himself up as a cabinet maker. From a young age Thonet was fascinated by the concept of bending wood to create durable, sturdy and for all natural forms. After much experimentation Michael Thonet was finally to achieve his goal, the bending of a round beech pole and his so called Bugholztechnik was to open the way for the cheap, industrial production of Thonet's chairs. In addition, Thonets discovery remains both an interesting production method for modern designers, and an inspiration and incentive for designers - in this context one need only think of, for example, Charles and Ray Eames experimentation with moulding plywood some 100 years later. Michael Thonet's second important contribution to the development of furniture design was the modular design of the chairs. This meant not only that broken or worn parts could be easily replaced, but also meant that the chairs could be shipped unassembled - thus saving costs and so paving the way for the global expansion of the company and its furniture. As such Michael Thonet can be seen as the father of not only modern industrial furniture production but also of modern automated processing.


More about 'Michael Thonet' in our blog

Thonet & Design @ Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum, Munich

...Can it be a coincidence that Boppard's most famous son, Michael Thonet, is most popularly known for his curving bentwood chairs?... What is less contentious is that the flow and meandering of first Michael Thonet's creativity and vigour and subsequently that of the company Thonet has carved its mark not only on the Rhenish Massif furniture design and on understandings of furniture, but also the furniture industry, from production to sales and distribution...

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019

...2019 is not only the 100th anniversary of the founding of Bauhaus Weimar, but the 200th anniversary of Michael Thonet establishing his first workshop in his native Boppard am Rhein; a one man workshop in a small village in Prussia which grew into seven factories across what today is four countries... Promising a presentation of Thonet chair designs from Michael Thonet's early decades in Boppard, over the Gebrüder Thonet's bentwood works of the later 19th century and the bent tubular steel of Breuer, Luckhardt, Mies van der Rohe et al of the early 20th century and on to the myriad works of the later 20th century by the likes of Eddi Harlis, Verner Panton, Konstantin Grcic or Stefan Diez; Thonet & Design should not only provide for a fulsome and detailed overview of the development(s) of Thonet over the past two centuries, but, we would hope, explore in how far the 200th anniversary helped paved the way for the 100th...

smow Blog Design Calender: December 10th 1869 - Thonet Relinquish Solid Wood Bending Privilege

...A carpenter by trade, Michael Thonet began experimenting with bending wood veneers in his native Boppard am Rhein in the early 1830s, and therefore at that period when veneer was not only becoming increasingly popular in Europe, but when the introduction of mechanised production methods was making it ever more readily and cost effectively available; as such, one can understand his experimentation as an attempt to develop processes which allowed for meaningful expressions of the potential of that material, if you will to allow carpentry to move in new directions, for all in terms of furniture production... Following a decade of experimenting with, and producing furniture from, bent wood veneer, in 1840 Michael Thonet applied for a Privilege, a patent, in Prussia...

smow blog Design Calendar: July 10th 1856 - Michael Thonet granted a patent for his solid wood bending process

...Exner from the Technologisches Gewerbemuseum Vienna the nature of the warm 3D wood bending process for which Michael Thonet received a patent on July 10th 1856...

Blurred Lines or What if Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke designed furniture?

...As a prime example of furniture design's traditions, the father of the modern furniture industry Michael Thonet began by re-creating established forms of the day; a training which helped him develop his own understanding of form, aesthetics and functionality, before with his 3D steamed bentwood forming he created not only a new process for industrial chair production but with the subsequent Chair 14 one of the most successful and popular chairs of all time... Michael Thonet's 3D steamed bentwood process, for example, owes more than a passing note of gratitude to boat building, while Alvar Aalto was famously introduced by his business partner Otto Korhonen to a plywood moulding process used by Tallinn based manufacturer Luterma for the production of tram seats...


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