The Wassily Chair, also known as the Model B3 chair, was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-1926 while he was the head of the cabinet-making workshop at the Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany.
My most extreme work . . . the least artistic, the most logical, the least ‘cozy’ and the most mechanical.
While teaching at the Bauhaus, Breuer often rode a bicycle, a pastime that led him to what is perhaps the single most important innovation in furniture design in the twentieth century: the use of tubular steel. The same material of which his bicycle’s handlebars were made was strong and lightweight and lent itself to mass production. Taking this into account, Breuer reasoned that if it could be bent into handlebars, it could be bent into furniture forms.
Inspired by the constructivist theories of the De Stijl movement, Marcel Breuer was still an apprentice at the Bauhaus school when he stripped the classic club chair to its basic lines and shapes, forever changing the course of furniture design.
This chair was revolutionary in its use of materials (bent tubular steel and eisengarn) and methods of manufacturing; the design (and all subsequent steel tubing-based furniture) was technologically feasible only because the German steel manufacturer Mannesmann had recently perfected a process for making seamless steel tubing. Previously, steel tubing had a welded seam, which would collapse when the tubing was bent.
The base model for this chair is the traditional overstuffed club chair; yet all that remains after Breuer’s intervention is its mere outline, an elegant composition traced in gleaming steel; as a result, the canvas seat, back, and arms seem to float in space. The body of the sitter, all in all, does not touch the steel framework.
A Chair Inspired by an Artist
[…] Kandinsky, who happened to come by my office when the first chair was brought in, said, “What is this?” He was very interested and then the Bauhaus became very interested. A year later, I had furnished the entire Bauhaus with this furniture.
The chair was not designed for the abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky, who at the same time was part of the faculty of the Bauhaus. Kandinsky had admired the completed project, and Breuer duplicated it for Kandinsky’s quarters. Decades later, the chair was republished as “Wassily” by the Italian manufacturer Gavina, who learned of this anecdote about Kandinsky during his research on the origins of the chair.
The Wassily Chair Project
The model of the chair, designed for the first time in 1925, undergoes several transformations over time. In 1927, the frame reached its current position, consisting of a continuous tube (without joints) that circumscribes the frame, folding a cubic space several times.
Initially, the Wassily Chair was produced by the company founded by Breuer of Standard-Mobel Lengyel in 1929 which is absorbed by Thonet.
The version of the chair produced by Thonet is very rare and went out of production during World War II.
After the decades of war, Gavina picked up the license for the Wassily, along with the Breuer models previously sold by Standard-Möbel, Lengyel & Co., and introduced the more recognized Wassily version which replaced the fabric with black leather straps. In 1968 Knoll bought the Gavina Group of Bologna bringing all of Breuer’s design to the Knoll catalog.
The Wassily chair, like many other designs from the modernist movement, has been mass-produced since the late 1920s, and continuously in production since the 1950s. A design classic is still available today. Though the patent designs have expired, the rights to the brand name on the design are owned by Knoll of New York City. Reproductions are produced worldwide by other manufacturers, who market the product under different names.
Designer: Marcel Breuer
Structure: tubular steel with polished chrome finish. Seat in leather or Cordura. Each chair comes with the feet in molded plastic, easily applicable to the base, if necessary (for hard floors).
Finishes: Leather upholstery is available in thick black, brown, tan, gray, or white-beige. The Cordura fabric and available in black, brown, blue, green, gray, or red. Chrome stem. Dimensions: L 79 cm x 70 cm D x 72 cm, seat height: 42 cm
Edges of black cowhide leather are dyed black; Frame is seamless tubular steel with a polished chrome finish; Four plastic glides snap into pre-drilled holes on the base of the chair.