design icons: a master of modernism | House and Leisure
Chairs, decor, design

design icons: a master of modernism

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The Wassily chair

After receiving the Museum of Modern Art Award in 1968 and recognition as a 'Work of Art' in Germany in 1982, the Wassily chair has become an iconic design piece. Who? Marcel Breuer was an architect and furniture designer who worked for the avant-garde German design studio Bauhaus and was known as a master of Modernism. Pioneering the use of strong and lightweight tubular steel, Breuer reasoned that if it could be bent into handlebars for a bicycle, it could also be moulded into furniture forms – and it wasn't long before other designers followed suit. He named his Wassily chair for friend and colleague, Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, and described it as his 'most extreme work, both in its outward appearance and in the use of materials; it is the least artistic, the most logical, the least "cosy" and the most mechanical'. Why? Initially known as the Model B3, the Wassily was the first chair to have a seamless bent-steel frame. It's a standout piece from the Modernism movement and to this day exemplifies progressive design, holding its own among contemporary furniture design and techniques. What now? While there are plenty of replicas of this iconic design piece in circulation, the official production rights now belong to US-based firm Knoll. Available in leather as well as the original canvas seating, a brand-new Wassily chair will cost you $2 572, excluding shipping. (And yes, they do ship to South Africa.)
A pair of iconic Wassily chairs alongside coffee and side tables, all by Marcel Breuer. Image courtesy of Knoll.