Tubular Steel

The Modern Movement was somewhat about making design a machine to be efficient and minimal – “Doing More with Less”


I acquired a set of two ‘Wassily Chairs’ from a “Op-Shop,” – a.k.a. ‘Opportunity Shop’, second-hand store usually backed by a charity and staffed by volunteers. I thought they would be a welcome addition to the lounge area of my bedsit. The chairs having an airy minimalist feel that kept in line with the efficient use of the smallish space I was needing to utilize to its fullest extent! They were in fair condition and seemed to be good reproductions of the old design by Marcel Breuer, so I parted with AU$200 for the both.

After living with the chair for about a year I noticed that ergonomically, these chairs were not very sound. The rake on the back and seat makes for an uncomfortable position on the neck, pushing the head forward to compensate for lean in the spinal column, in a painful and unnatural way. This is good if you don’t want your guests to stay long but to live with it means health problems in relation to physical stress, in the long term. Getting out of the chair was difficult and there were little alternative positions to sit in other than straight ahead. Sitting sideways is an option, quite comfortable with your legs dangling off the side!

The Wassily Chair was a responce, by Marcel Breuer, to the then new manufacturing process that facilitated the invention of tubular steel. Tubular steel, by mass, stronger than solid steel and gets stronger when you bend it, unlike solid steel.

The Modern Movement was somewhat about ‘making design a machine’ – manufacturing efficiency and the frontier of ‘more is less’ – (a.k.a. doing more with less materials), minimalism. The Wassily Chair certainly looks beautiful, depending on your taste. To me, the reality leaves you wondering if beauty was the real function, other than to begin to pave the way for a discussion in design that lasts to this day!

Marcel Breuer 1902-1981

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