A Design Icon:  The Cesca Chair

A Design Icon: The Cesca Chair

Commentary News Opinion

Dubbed one of the most important chairs of the 20th century, the Cesca chair quickly became a design icon, showcased in museum collections and movie sets across the globe. 

Born out of the German art school, the Bauhaus, Marcel Breuer conceived of the chair (then called the B-32) in the late 1920s.  The inspiration for the chair’s iconic design was twofold:  firstly, Breuer was inspired by the tubular metal that made up a bicycle’s handlebars.  Sleek, shiny, strong, and importantly, able to be ‘bent like macaroni.’  Secondly, in 1928, Breuer reportedly flipped a stool on its side and the cantilevered chair was soon born.  The B-32 chair was the purest manifestation of Bauhaus ideals – beautiful, functional and reproducible – a gorgeous blend of art and industry.

So, what is it about this chair that makes it so special?  In addition to its unique cantilevered structure, there are no superfluous design elements.  The lack of bracing creates a lighter-weight chair with some flex – not rigid and uncomfortable like so many other chairs on the market.  The single bent steel pipe also helps make the chair lighter and easier to make.  Finally, simple, easy to acquire materials are another defining characteristic.

The chair is a good example of great design coming to the forefront at the right time.  The 1960s saw a shift in design sensibilities toward a more hybrid futuristic look, and the B-32 fit right in.  Italian furniture manufacturer Gavina renamed the chair Cesca after Francesca, Breuer’s daughter’s name.

One interesting tidbit of information is that Breuer’s original design was never copyrighted.  Because of this, various manufacturers started making copies at a frenetic pace.  Soon thereafter, the design marvel that is the Cesca chair became ubiquitous across the globe. 

I would venture to say that a large percentage of our readership has snapped some photos of this legendary chair at one point or another in their career.  How about you?  Any memorable shoots where the Cesca took center stage?

About Justin Szeremeta
I'm an architect turned photographer based in Shanghai with a penchant for tall buildings.
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