The Bauhaus, a school of design and architecture founded in Weimar, Germany, in 1919 by Architect Walter Gropius, had the goal of developing unity of the arts through craftsmanship taught in specialized workshops by key theorists and practitioners, among them Johannes Itten, Marcel Breuer, Lázló Mology-Nagy, Mies van der Rohe, Oskar Schlemmer, Josef Albers, and Herbert Bayer. The Bauhaus promoted a modern aesthetic characterized by simple forms and the use of technological advances in materials and manufacture to create products that were durable, hygienic, functional, attractive, and affordable.
This 1930 Desta trade catalog in the Cooper Hewitt Design Library features tubular steel furniture that has come to typify the clean forms and functionality associated with the movement. DESTA (Deutsche Stahlmöbel), formed in September 1929 in Berlin by Hungarian designer and businessman Anton Lorenz, manufactured mass-produced tubular steel chairs, tables, storage units, desks, and beds for institutions, offices, and homes.
This small format paperback pamphlet, containing designs by Lorenz, Erich Mendelsohn, Mart Stam, and brothers Wassili and Hans Luckhardt, features a dramatic photomontage of chairs on its covers, twenty- four pages sporting numerous photographs of individual pieces, as well as their placement in interiors, and a price list.
It is an important and rare document of the short- lived DESTA company that closed its doors concurrent with end of the Bauhaus school in 1933. Interestingly, the catalog was produced in 1930 at the time a controversy arose over the rights to produce tubular cantilever chairs designed by Mart Stam (notably the ST12 model included in this catalog).
DESTA ultimately won a law suit against furniture manufacturer Thonet, which was promoting similar cantilever chairs designed by Marcel Breuer. In 1932, Desta was sold to Thonet, which continues to hold the rights to Stam’s cantilever chair designs to this day.
Stephen Van Dyk recently retired as Head Librarian at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library. This blog was written with the research assistance of Adrienne Meyer, graduate of the New School Parsons Masters program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies.