features
#093 / 2009
Uncovering Contemporary Furniture Collections

Kragstuhlmuseum: Lauenförde, Germany

The final building designed by eminent British architect Peter Smithson embraces the Kragstuhlmuseum (translates as cantilever chair museum) and related Tecta archives in a park-like setting on the edge of Lauenförde, a small rural town in Germany 40 kilometres north of Kassel.

A distinctive structure with red-painted zig-zag lattice steel and hexagonal glass panels, the museum opened in September 2003, a few months after Smithson's death. The addition of two more halls increased exhibition space in 2004 and 2007.

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The lifelong passion of Axel Bruchhäuser, the museum and archives showcase furniture by designers of the modern movement (especially the products of the Bauhaus). Bruchhäuser, owner of Tecta, manufacturers "re-editions" of these designs under licence in his factory just north of the museum complex.

Artfully clustered groups of furniture appear in niches formed by the undulating walls of the three exhibit halls, often on simple, white-painted shipping pallets or on more central display islands surrounded by a sea of natural-coloured coconut matting. Cantilevered chairs on display include the work of Danish designer Gunnar Aagard Andersen, German architect and Bauhaus teacher Marcel Breuer, Russian designer El Lissitzky, German-American architect Mies van der Rohe (with German designer Lilly Reich), Dutch architect Mart Stam, German designer Stefan Wewerka and others.

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(left) Weissenhof chair, Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, 1927.
(centre) Dining chair, Mart Stam, 1926.
(right) Prototype chair, Gunnar Aagard Andersen, 1953.[1]

Though impossible to determine who designed the first cantilever chair, Stam won a patent lawsuit in the late 1920s against Breuer in the German courts.[2] In a similar context of "who was first," the museum displays a 1953 prototype newspaper and chicken wire chair by Gunnar Aagard Andersen, which predates Verner Panton's S chair by about seven years. Alongside these cantilever pioneers Bruchhäuser exhibits an intriguing collection of anonymous designs, including several fishing stools and tractor and aircraft seats.[3]

The complex's other two buildings house the work of French engineer and designer Jean Prouvé, the studio of Stefan Wewerka, the colourful furniture of Peter Smithson and wife, Alison (both also designed furniture), and a constantly updated exhibit of Tecta's current production of re-editioned or new designs.

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Interior Kragstuhlmuseum

Tecta's website quotes Bruchhäuser with the statement, "Design ist Müll" (literally translates as "design is garbage") — his way of denouncing the current media-driven infatuation with the latest trends in today's design. The website also expresses Tecta's commitment to the modern movement as reflected by Peter Smithson " . . . [the movement] is not a legacy in the sense of a sum of money to be spent or speculated with . . . it is a genetic stance, a responsibility . . . something to live up to."

The collection at Kragstuhlmuseum strongly conveys this message to visitors seeking to know more about modernist design and its history.

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Exterior Kragstuhlmuseum

 

Website: www.kragstuhlmuseum.de (* Scroll right for chair images.)

Where: Sohnreystrasse 10, Lauenfoerde, Germany (about 40 km N of Kassel, 400 m N of the junction of Sohnreystrasse and Route 241 in Lauenförde)
Open Monday to Friday 15.00 to 17.00
Saturday 10.00 to 14.00

Phone 0049 151 20972947 or 0049 5273 37890

Source [1]: http://www.designaddict.com/essais/Originality.html
Source [2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mart_Stam
Source [3]: http://www.tecta.de/downloads/modernism_truppin_april2009.pdf

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© furniturelink 2009, images © Kragstuhlmuseum