Bentwood for the production of furniture’s development was one of the very first great milestones of design as we understand it now. The oldest known way of bending wood into a particular contour had its origins in furniture building. Planks of wood were subjected to steam and then attached to curved beams while still hot. The wood might be flexed just gradually in this way, yet. A similar technique was used at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the production of wheels and barrels. The pieces of wood left to cool and dry and subsequently put in a mould were boiled. Michael Thonet, a carpenter from Boppard on the Rhine whose work was defined by ambition, high standards, and perfectionism developed this method for furniture-making.
Solid wood splinters on the outer curve when bent excessively, and in 1830 he started to glue multiple layers together (laminates) of wood, before boiling and bending them. The Boppard laminated seat of 1836 (fig. p. 20) was his first great success. The outward look did not yet truly represent its revolutionary inner construction, nonetheless. Its shape, like that of its predecessors, was improved by using sections of carved wood. Those in the know, however, would have noticed its loop-formed back, which points to its revolutionary creation process.
At a trade exhibition held at Furniture Perth captured the attention of Count Metternich. Thanks to the patronage of Metternich, Thonet managed to work on his meth- od in peace and quiet in the trend-aware and progressive metropolis. In 1842 he was given a prz’vz’leg, or patent, by the Austrian courts, permitting him to mold wood “using a chemical-mechanical procedure into any desired shape and form.” As laminated wood may be bent in just one direction, and was very labor intensive to produce, and as the chairs made in this manner came unstuck when shipped to tropic climes, Thonet worked tirelessly to find a solution to bend solid wood. One thought consisted of attaching a thin, narrow steel splint to the outer side of the board.
This provided Thonet’s breakthrough to him. The exact same year he started his first factory, in Korycany in the forested region of Moravia, where serial mass-production of his furniture began. Beech trunks were sawn into rectangular blocks of wood, cut into lengths, planed, and then smoothed and polished with sand- paper. Next, the wood was bent over clamped into iron frameworks steam heated to 100 to 200 degrees Celsius and let to dry.
A high degree of equilibrium might be reached in this manner, even with tight curves and thin cross sections. The bent elements might be joined using screws, and thus the protracted gluing process could be dispensed with. This generation process made it possible for the first time to turn the wood two dimensionally, giving a totally new to Thonet’s layouts appearance. Count developed a linear aesthetic that radiated elegance and lightness. The use of wood additionally im- bued the pieces using a lively and natural atmosphere. This new style corresponded exactly with the desires of the aspirational, forward-looking middle classes of the nineteenth century. The groundbreaking sophistication and also became a common sight in cafes, and lightness of Thonet’s furniture consequently found its way into private homes And eateries thanks to low production costs and its large production runs. By World War II, 50 million copies of version No. 14 (fig. p. 18), which became the archetype of the Viennese coffeehouse chair and is currently regarded as the ultimate T honet classic, had already been sold. It consequently became the first “mass seat” and made design history as the archetype of modern furniture design and the model of successful industrial design.
Le Corbusierpwas a vocal T ho- net enthusiast, and liked to use these bentwood chairs in his interior designs. He stated that “never before has anything been created that was more elegant or better in its conception, more exact in its performance, or fit for its use.” The initial goal of the model developed in 1859 was the development of an affordable consumer chair that might be utilized in working-class homes, in cafes, offices, and bars. Thonet was in fact capable to avoid raising the price of his “three-guilder chair” for more than 50 years. Consisting of just five parts, it did not take up much L space and could be sent from the other side of the planet. Two facets of Thonet’s achievement are significant: he created the preconditions for serial mass-pro- duction, and his technical inventions changed the aesthetics of furniture; a new design grew out of the new technology and its particular production -related aesthetic.
The Viennese Chair, as model No. 14 is also known, is among the few products developed in the nineteenth century to have survived the era in which it was created and continues to be valued as a classic. The Bauhaus style at the start of the twentieth century’s clean, straight lines and also the development of tubular furniture usurped bentwood furniture’s preeminent position in furniture design. It increased significance once again in the 19305, nevertheless. The development of new substances, such as modern glues made using artificial mate- rials, the evolution of new processing techniques, such as hydraulic presses, and the generation of l tremendous sheets of veneer supplied designers like Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, and Charles and Ray Eames with a world of new possibilities for making furniture using wood. Aalto’s first modern seat design, version No. F35, is a combination of a steel tube and plywood.
For some, this looked like an awk- ward compromise applying both materials. Aalto, also, experimented for a long time in order to produce the ideal foundation for furniture design. Wood was considered by him to be the best stuff, satisfying not only the operational but also the psychological demands of the user. He described his favored construction material as a “form-inspiring, completely human material.” Aalto shortly presented his Paimio seats, version No. 41 (1931, fig. p. 21) and No.31 (1932, fig. p. 75). Groundbreaking in their use of plywood, they formed and were cut from just one sheet. With his Paimio seats, Aalto managed to translate the rectilinear, modern Bauhaus aesthetic of tubular seats into wood.
With the removal of a couple layers of the veneer, he was able to bend the rolled-up ends of the seat casing, which was much more flexible and thinner because of this. For model No. 31, Aalto pushed the elasticity of the plywood so far that it became the first cantilever seat made of wood-a design that gave a friendlier face to modernism. Inspired by Aalto’s plywood models, between 1935 and 1937 Marcel Breuer Furniture designed five models for Isokon that were basically wood variations of his tubular-steel furniture. The next breakthrough in wood was attained by Charles and Ray Eames in the mid- 19403, within their kitchen. Charles were dissatisfied with the producers and makers of plywood, who were reluctant to test further with the stuff. Using bike parts, plaster components, and heated filaments, they managed to construct a machine which stays to the present day a model for bentwood creation. It was named after the magic incantation “Alakazam,” and created the very first three-dimensionally bent plywood seat shell to be serially made. Thin plywood veneers were layered with a synthetically based hot-melt adhesive between two casts. Two were transformed into firm molded components Custom furniture Peth heating and by pressing them for between siX hours and four. This approach was likewise used in 1946 for the furniture inside their Plywood chain (fig. above), whose three dimensional shape let the pieces to be ergonomically adapted to the human body, and to be, like an egg, strong despite the thinness of the substance.
These exper- iments with three-dimensionally-formed innumerable other furniture designers inspired to run their own experiments. Egon Eierman assembled the SE 42 in 1949, Arne Jacobsen made his Ant in 1952 (fig. p. 23), and Hans J. Wegner produced the elegantly vaulted CH 07 in 1963. But the advancements in synthetic materials with which the furniture business increasingly experimented from the 19608 onwards caused a renewed loss of significance for bentwood. The bright colors, significantly lower prices, and the malleability of synthetics made them much better suited to the decade’s Pop aesthetic. Plywood was considered overly bulky and unfashionable in the era of Minimal ism that followed. Postmodernists preferred to cover up plywood rather than thinking about its potential uses. But serious furniture design experienced a revival in the 19903. After plastic kitsch (see Pop Culture) and colorful Memphis layouts (see Postmodernism), wood was set to use because of its own natural beauty and simplicity.
A fresh admiration of the stuff also resulted in a renewed interest in the ways that wood can be processed. Businesses specializing in plywood worked in close alliance with designers, and developed individual creation processes for specific products. Innovations like laser-based shaping machines, new computer programs, and constantly improving plywood and adhesives now allow it to be possible to exploit the possibilities inherent in the material further. The “bending” divan (fig. right) by Beat Frank from 2002 is a laser-cut layout whose birch plywood is produced using a special glue. The wood is thus quite thin, yet simultaneously so powerful that it can bend. It can be set up in three distinct manners, as a chair, a divan, or a chaise longue.
The backrest of the Sarno office chair by Dirk Tegtmeyer for Ziico is just another good example, seeming to roll effortlessly around a steel tube that is thin. Furniture Production for this particular bit is, however, quite la- the method, and borious is among the manufacturer’s well-kept secrets. Nobody can predict what the future holds for wood that is formed. The XUS image (fig. above) by the Scandinavian designer Peter Karpf may provide an intimation, however: the laminated beech plywood is folded like a piece of fabric, forming a cantilever chair in which unbelievable lightness and elegance are coupled with an organic aesthetic.