Influences on Designers Mies Van Der Rohe and Breuer

11 November 2016

I will deliver an examination of their most famous designs, by considering three major themes: rejection of ornamentation, truth to materials, and form follows function. Finally, I will include a consideration of the influence of Mart Stam’s designs on the practitioners work. Together, this will account for my analysis of how external social and economic factors, shared experiences, and common influences, are reflected in the shared features of Breuer’s and Mies van der Rohe’s designs and to what extent they contributed to the shaping of modernism in Europe in the 1920’s.

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Therefore, how these came to become what could now be referred as modern design. The term modern is very abstract and has been defined in many different ways. For the purpose of this essay, the term concerns a design perspective: an embrace of utopian ideas in a desire to create a better world; through machinery, new technologies, and the unity of the arts . Context and life of practitioners In the 1920’s, Europe was in a post World War 1 situation. New social and economic trends led to a reorganization of civilization: buildings, offices, streets and many cars now governed the city .

The breakthrough of machinery and technological development created a desire for progress, which led to a strong preoccupation with efficiency and competence. This encouraged major advances in the design field. It is in this time that practitioners Breuer and Mies van der Rohe were in their most significant professional years as designers and architects. The shared involvements in the practitioner’s lives have significant influences in their designs. Both were associated with the Bauhaus; an iconic Avant-Garde design school in Germany.

Breuer was a student who then became a teacher between 1920 and 1928, while Mies van der Rohe was appointed director in 1930 until 1933. The Bauhaus education encouraged geometrical approaches to design, material investigation, craftsmanship, and involving art in the industry. All these ideas shaped what modernism became. It is also noteworthy to mention the recent past was a critical factor contributing to the popularity of Breuer’s and Mies van der Rohe’s designs. Prior to the 1920’s, many styles, such as Art Nouveau, the Arts and Crafts, Eclecticism, had recently been revived from the past.

Struggling for acceptance in an unstable time in Europe, they had not lasted long. This should be accounted for as a big reason why the modern designs became so successful in the 1920’s; society was in need of uniformity; ‘comfort, luxury, status and security’. Moreover, both practitioners were not only designers but also experienced in the architectural field, which allowed them to take radical steps forwards in structure and design. Both practitioners were majorly influential on the international style in architecture, which was a movement that embraced very similar ideals as modernism.

By next addressing three key modernist themes, and by also examining the accompanying images, why and how modernism followed such ideals will be further explained. Rejection of Ornamentation As mentioned, the advance in machinery and technology had created a desire for progress, and people were now preoccupied with productivity. This is why the modernists rejected unnecessary decoration. The idea that ‘less is more’ pushed designers into new ways; with his B 64 (Image 1), Breuer chose to combine tubular steel with a wooden frame for the seat and back of his chair.

The choice of using only the essential materials to create a bold, unconventional structure made this one of the most well-known chairs in the world. He also came up with the B 32; an alternative design of this chair, with no armrest to suit other preferences. Breuer also created the B 3 (Image 2); a design that minimised the usual heavy armchair into its most vital features, while keeping its function and commodity with this clean geometrical design. ‘Truth to materials’ Although a rejection to ornamentation had been taken, it did not mean that pleasing aesthetics were ignored.

Designers chose to take a brave path of making objects that shone through their bare appearance and intention. By doing this, they were incorporating art into the industry. Breuer’s design of the steel armchair (Image 2); was the first chair to be made with tubular steel as its frame material; a revolutionary advance in furniture design. This revealed the honest and true nature of the materials; the tubular steel and polished yarn fabric gave this piece lightness, resistance, and hygienic features. The fabric was positioned to avoid the user’s contact with the coolness of the steel, which additionally highlighted the geometrical look.

With this, Breuer was also accomplishing a celebration of industrial imagery. ‘Form follows function’ ‘Form follows function’ incorporates the previous two themes in itself; design must be in direct consequence of a need. MR 20 (Image 4) shows the semi-circled-shaped front legs of Mies van der Rohe’s design. With this particular feature, he was able to achieve the springy feature of the chair, which was further enhanced by the bendy properties of the tubular steel. The design followed the need, whilst maintaining a neat and well-constructed frame. It gave the user a comfortable and luxurious product.

Mies van der Rohe’s well-known Barcelona Chair (Image 3) had a scissor-like structure, which gave the chair stability, while maintaining a luxurious and minimal look. The chrome polished steel was again very appealing in a geometrical and unconventional way. It shows an embrace of innovation. Contextual factors are a big influence on practitioners’ designs. However, the influence of other designers’ work should also be noted. For example; Dutch designer Mart Stam’s cantilevered design. As previously mentioned, Breuer introduced tubular steel into home furnishing in 1925 with his Wassily Armchair (Image 2).

In 1926, however, Mart Stam introduced his W1 chair (Image 5); (made also of tubular steel), a cantilevered design with no back legs, which allowed for the tubular steels properties to be fully taken advantage of. After this particular property of tubular steel had been introduced, designers began thinking along similar lines. Considering these facts, it can be said that both Mies van der Rohe and Breuer were influenced and predisposed to go along similar lines as Mart Stam. In 1928, Breuer came up with the B 64 Cesca chair (Image 1), which was criticised as being too similar to Stam’s W1.

Breuer claimed to having had already come up with the concept. However, in exhibition ‘Die Wohnung’ in 1927, he had seen Mies van der Rohe’s cantilevered MR 20 (Image 4). As to Mies van der Rohe, in a meeting with Stam in 1926, Stam had sketched his design of a chair with no back legs. Over that sketch, Mies van der Rohe drew a curve that altered the legs of the chair, which gave birth to the MR 20 (Image 4). In a desire to create a better world, Marcel Breuer’s and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s designed some of the most iconic modernist chairs in the world.

External factors played a major role in their inspiration; social and economic issues, shared experiences, and common influences, which is why there are so many similarities in their designs. Since they were not the only popular chair designers of the 1920’s, it cannot be said that they alone shaped modernism. Nonetheless, Their designs were innovative, and always in direct consequence of a need – which is why they were majorly influential in the development of the essence of modern design. Word Count: 1618 Bibliography Boyd, Michael and Gabrielle (1998).

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