Defying gravity and overcoming the earth’s inertia
Gropius’ two-seater F51-2 sofa and the F51-3 three-seater version evolved organically out of the F51 cube armchair in the director's room of the Weimar Bauhaus. The floating cushions catch the eye alternately, as does the signature cantilever design which encompasses the upholstery – one could almost say, permeates it. The F51-2 and F51-3 sofas have close ties with Tecta. Erich Brendel corresponded with the company and was able to confirm that the F51 armchair already stood in the director's room in the spring of 1920, but not the sofa.
There only exist a few photographs of the sofa group itself documenting the three-seater sofa. Tecta’s Axel Bruchhäuser recalls: “There is a photograph showing J. J. Pieter Oud, the Dutch De Stijl artist, with Wassily Kandinsky and Walter Gropius in the middle. It took the eyes of a detective to see that it was the three-seater.” Tecta also developed the elegant two-seater following the faithful reedition of the three-seater. In doing so, it pursued the programme of Walter Gropius’ constructivist modernism with the same radicality.
Axel Bruchhäuser, a Tecta partner since 1972, sees this as the dawn of a new era: “They started at zero after the complete moral, material and intellectual destruction wrought by the Great War. By founding the Bauhaus in 1919, he wanted to free himself from old conventions, rethink everything and be completely open for anything new.” In view of this radical entry into modernity, we really need to keep in mind that this new movement itself is now almost a century old.
One of the most impressive concepts is that of the cantilever chair championed at the Bauhaus, which builds a bridge all the way to El Lissitzky’s Cloud Irons of 1924. The radically new assumes a tangible form. Walter Gropius said: The goal of modern architecture is “to defy gravity and overcome the earth’s inertia in impression and appearance.” And this is a living example.
Founder and thinker of the Bauhaus philosophy. The architect and founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius (1883-1969), mocked traditional architecture as “salon art”. He descended from a family of great builders: his great uncle was Martin Gropius. Walter Gropius abandoned his architectural studies and initially joined the office of Peter Behrens – as had, incidentally, Adolf Meyer, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. A short time later, Gropius founded what we now call modernism – a major break from and with the conventions of the past.
One key feature was that he did not reject the principles of the industrial age – standardisation and prototypes – but made them productive tools for his work. “A resolute affirmation of the living environment of machines and vehicles,” wrote the Bauhaus director in 1926, who believed that “the creation of standard types for all practical commodities of everyday use is a social necessity.” This spirit not only gave rise to the Fagus factory as an icon of modern architecture and the Dessau Bauhaus, but also laid the foundations of what is still a driving force for us today.
“The objective of creating a set of standard prototypes which meet all the demands of economy, technology, and form, requires the selection of the best, most versatile, and most thoroughly educated men who are well grounded in workshop experience and who are imbued with an exact knowledge of the design elements of form and mechanics and their underlying laws.”
By founding the Bauhaus, Gropius launched a new school of thought, opposing the traditional architecture of which he was so critical. In 1919 Gropius was appointed director of the Grand Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar, Thuringia, and named the new school “State Bauhaus Weimar”.
Gropius’ driving vision was not only to construct a “building of the future” and a holistic work of art, but also the highly modern approach of maintaining the distinction between apprentice and master while intermeshing the two teachings in a novel manner. To work across the disciplines, with an interdisciplinary approach in the spirit of research and experimentation.
Gropius also knew how to translate architectural concepts into furniture design, exemplified by his unique penetration of volume and linearity that characterises many of his works. Walter Gropius directed the Bauhaus until its closure in 1933, emigrated to England in 1934 and to Cambridge, USA, in 1937 to teach as professor of architecture at Harvard University.