Czech Functionalism


BEFORE WORLD WAR I, THE Czech furniture industry was quite conservative, as Czech Cubism – the boldest experimental approach to furniture until then – was limited to one- off pieces created for individual clients. After the war, Thonet moved their main headquarters

from Vienna to Brno in the Czech Republic, and provided a good counterpart to the decorative tendencies of Czech Cubism and stimulated interest in mass-produced pieces.

Czechoslovakia was an advanced industrialised country with a well-educated workforce eager to keep up with new ideas and inventions. Czech designers would take advantage of the emergence of these new man-made materials, and a clean, modernist design, called functionalism, would soon touch nearly every aspect of life here.


The development of tubular steel in the 1920s was one such invention, and is considered a milestone in the history of modern furniture. Czechoslovakia happened to be home to a number of auto- mobile manufacturers including Tatra, Škoda, Aero, Wikow, Walter and others. The company Tatra, not only forged forward with innovative streamlined car bodies but also car interiors. They made all - metal dashboards and nifty cantilever chromium plated tubular steel seating with folding backrests. Apparently after seeing this sleek design for a car seat, Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam produced a ground-breaking chair design of his own. It was a steel-tubing chair without rear legs, created using lengths of standard gas pipes with joints, which caused a lot of excitement. However, this chair had a huge disadvantage – it didn’t have any give!   Read more about Czech Functionalism in Issue 32.