Thonet tubular steel cantilever chairs at the Leipzig National Library, Modern German Architecture, Furniture

Thonet tubular steel cantilever chairs at the Leipzig National Library

A study in classic furniture design for 85 years: Deutsche Bücherei, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

28 Jun 2018

Thonet tubular steel cantilever chairs

A study in classic furniture design for 85 years – Thonet tubular steel cantilever chairs at the Leipzig National Library

Thonet Tubular Steel Cantilever Chairs at the Leipzig National Library

The landmark main building of the splendid library in the centre of Leipzig is characterised by impressive statues, busts and gilt decorative elements from the turn of the 20th century. Creating a contrast to the rather pathos-laden architectural style of the building, which dates from the late Wilhelmine period, the interior of the natural science reading hall embraced the objective and functional influences of the Bauhaus as early as 1933.

To this day, those undertaking research and study at the library can enjoy the elegance and comfort of iconic Thonet model S 43 F tubular steel cantilever chairs (design and artistic copyright: Mart Stam) at over 100 workstations. Classic lamps from the 1920s enhance the reading hall’s neat rows of desks and complement the utilitarian and reduced aesthetics of the 300 m² rectangular hall.

Thonet Tubular Steel Cantilever Chairs at the Leipzig National Library

The original chairs were supplied by furniture manufacturer Thonet in 1933, with 100 of the model S 43 F chairs (with armrests) delivered to the library. This pioneering design had been developed only a few years before by Mart Stam, one of the leading lights of the Bauhaus movement.

The cantilevered tubular steel frame offers particular comfort due to its subtle flex which enables a relaxed seated position – even during long working days. The reduced and clear form of the chairs lends a timeless grace to the light-flooded reading hall. The black hue of the moulded plywood seat, backrest and armrest elements is repeated on the desks, which accommodate two chairs each.

While the quality of the design and manufacture affords a remarkable durability to the chairs, after World War II and the foundation of the German Democratic Republic it became impossible to replace any of the chairs in the reading hall for several decades. However, following reunification, Thonet was delighted to receive an inquiry for the addition of eight new chairs to the existing, and beautifully lasting furniture in the natural science reading hall.

Thus in 2002, after more than 70 years, the Frankenberg based company once again delivered a consignment of S 43 cantilever chairs, and repaired minor damage to two more of the existing models. The majority of the original chairs are still enjoyed at the Leipzig National Library today; with only some renewal of the tubular steel frames of these historic pieces needed in 2006, due to their continued daily use.

All the wooden elements of the original chairs were reused, offering a fine testament to the quality and durability of Thonet furniture.

Thonet Tubular Steel Cantilever Chair
Mart Stam’s S 43 chair (with armrests), from Thonet

A gem in Leipzig’s inner city
The Leipzig National Library was inaugurated in 1916 as the “German Library”. Since then, it has been documenting and archiving all German and German language publications in print and audio that have been published since 1913 and making them accessible to the public.

The building on Deutscher Platz is among Germany’s most beautiful and admired library buildings. Since the first foundation stone was laid, four extensions were added – most recently the futuristic building complex designed by the Stuttgart architect Gabriele Glöckler in collaboration with ZSP Architekten in 2011. In 1990, the German Library merged with the Frankfurt Library – together, the institutions have presented themselves since 2006 under the name “German National Library”.

Address: Deutsche Bücherei, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutscher Pl. 1, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
Phone: +49 341 22710

Thonet furniture design

Thonet – future-oriented furniture design with a long tradition
The unique success story of Thonet began with the work of master carpenter Michael Thonet. Since establishing his first workshop in Boppard on the River Rhine in 1819, the name Thonet has stood for high-quality, innovative and elegant furniture.

The breakthrough came with the iconic chair No. 14, the so-called Vienna Coffee House Chair: the pioneering technique of bending solid beech wood for the first time enabled the mass production of chairs. The second milestone in design history was the tubular steel furniture by the famous Bauhaus architects Mart Stam, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer in the 1930s. At the time, Thonet was the world’s largest producer of these tubular steel furniture designs, which are considered timeless today.

For the company today, the continuous process of innovation stands in the foreground alongside a focus on tradition and fine craftsmanship. Thonet collaborates with renowned national and international designers – in addition, some of the furniture is designed by the in-house Thonet Design Team.

All of the furniture is produced in the company-owned manufacturing facility, and, following the motto “Individuality is our standard”, custom-tailored solutions are part of everyday life in Frankenberg. Chief Executive Officer Brian Boyd together with Chief Operating Officer Michael Erdelt and Creative Director Norbert Ruf manage the company at the corporate head offices and production site in Frankenberg/Eder (Germany).

The descendants of Michael Thonet, the fifth and sixth generations, are actively involved with the company’s business as partners and sales representatives.

Location: Leipzig National Library, Germany, Europe

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photograph by Rohmer at en.wikipedia

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Website: Deutsche Nationalbibliothek