Mart Stam (1899-1986)

Dutch architect, urban planner and furniture designer, Mart Stam strode into the world of architecture at just 21. His style of design has been classified as New Objectivity, an art movement formed against Expressionism during the German depression in 1920’s.

Portrait of Mart Stam

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About His Life

Mart Stam was born in Purmerend, Holland, on 5 August 1899 among people of progressive beliefs and activist temperament. “We young people want light and freedom instead of darkness” he wrote. When he was 21, he joined the Rotterdam design group Opbouw, abuzz with talk of design purity and industrial production. After a while, he met up with Hans Schmidt, Alfred Roth and El Lissitzky in Zurich, where they founded the ABC group. His personality was shaped by obstinance, idealism, courage and outspokenness and led him to state that “We have to change the world.” 

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Mart Stam, 1928

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However, in 1920, Stam was imprisoned for six months for refusing to serve in the military. In 1928 and 1929 he worked as an architect in Frankfurt, where he helped build the Hellerhof housing estate. In that period, he was a guest lecturer at the Bauhaus, teaching elementary construction theory and urban planning. In 1939 he assumed the top position at the Academy of Arts and Crafts in Amsterdam, and in 1950 he was named director of the Conservatory for Applied Art in Berlin-Weißensee. He returned to Amsterdam in 1953 but emigrated with his wife to Switzerland in 1977 and withdrew from public view. He did in 1986 in Zurich.

What Were His Major Works?

After moving to Berlin, Stam devised a steel-tubing cantilever chair, using lengths of standard gas pipe and standard pipe joint fittings. Inspired by a cantilever tubular steel seat seen installed in a 1926 Tatra T12 two-door saloon car, he developed the gas pipe chair, a chair which made history.

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Gas Pipe Chair

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Stam was extraordinarily well-connected, and his career intersects with important moments in the history of 20th-century European architecture, including chair design at the Bauhaus, the Weissenhof Estate. It is a housing estate built for exhibition in Stuttgart in 1927. It was an international showcase of what later became known as the International style of modern architecture. The permanent housing project put him in the company of Le Corbusier, Peter Behrens, Bruno Taut, Hans Poelzig, and Walter Gropius, and the exhibition had as many as 20,000 visitors a day.

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Terrace Houses on the Weissenhof, Mart Stam

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How Can We Identify Stam’s Style?

As said before, Stam’s personality was shaped by obtinance, idealism, courage, courage and outspokennessHis style of design has been classified as New Objectivity, an art movement that arose as a reaction against Expressionism during the German depression in the 1920s. Stam’s style is characterized by clean lines, straightforward, functionally minded, matter-of-fact approach to construction.

Collage showing Stam and his projects

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