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Stacking chair - Bofinger chair; B1171

Bofinger chair; B1171

  • Object:

    Stacking chair

  • Place of origin:

    Karlsruhe, Germany (designed)
    Kraichtal-Menzingen (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1964-1965 (designed)
    1966-1984 (manufactured)
    1966 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rudolf Baresel-Bofinger (Rudolf Baresel-Bofingerwas the general manager of Bofinger KG. He was asked by Bätzner to comment on, consultants)
    Menzolit Werke Albert Schmidt Kraichtal-Menzingen (manufactured)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Polyester resin, moulded

  • Museum number:

    CIRC.438-1970

  • Gallery location:

    Furniture, room 133, case BY10, shelf EXP

  • Image in copyright

This chair is probably the first one-piece mass-produced plastic chair. It was designed by Helmut Bätzner's architectural office during the 1960s in conjunction with the building project for the State Theatre in Karlsruhe (Germany). Plastic furniture was still a new venture and Bätzner, seeking advice, presented his idea to furniture manufacturer Bofinger. He became a powerful supporter of the project, eventually lending his name to the chair. The chair could be produced in only five minutes with little finishing needed. It was intended as additional seating indoors as well as for outdoor use and had to be light, moveable, stackable, compact and weatherproof. The chair's popularity is confirmed by a production of over 120,000 examples.

Physical description

One-piece polyester resin in solid colour with a continuous shape forming four legs, seat and back.

The relationship between the press mould and the chair is evident in the accentuated outlines of the chair. The polyester resin appears as if wrapped around the mould. The chair is characterised by wide overhangs.
The legs are a v-shape tapering up from the shorter sides of a triangular base. This shape gives the legs exceptional strength. The back two legs extend upwards to form a back support for a simple, slightly indented, rectangular back. The tapered legs, narrow at the base, reach the widest point at the height of the seat, the back support then narrows again towards the highest point of the chair. The front legs continue smoothly into the seat.
The edges of the chair are very distinctive and reveal the thickness of the chair. From the front the chair, the edges of the legs are directed outwards, whereas the edges that join the four legs curve inwards. From the back, a single, sharp edge is the main focus which is slightly turned outwards, because of the tapered back support. Looking at the chair from behind reveals the curved base of seat and back. The back appears as if it has been stretched out from seat and legs.

The chair was produced in eight colours, including yellow, black, red and blue, and is glossy in appearance.

Place of Origin

Karlsruhe, Germany (designed)
Kraichtal-Menzingen (manufactured)

Date

1964-1965 (designed)
1966-1984 (manufactured)
1966 (made)

Artist/maker

Rudolf Baresel-Bofinger (Rudolf Baresel-Bofingerwas the general manager of Bofinger KG. He was asked by Bätzner to comment on, consultants)
Menzolit Werke Albert Schmidt Kraichtal-Menzingen (manufactured)

Materials and Techniques

Polyester resin, moulded

Dimensions

Height: 74.5 cm, Width: 53 cm, Depth: 53 cm

Object history note

The chair was developed in 1964 and 1965 in connection with the construction work for the State Theatre in Karlsruhe for which Bätzner's architecture office was responsible. As an architect and because of the novelty of the suggested material, Bätzner was seeking advice from the renowned German furniture maker Rudolf Baresel-Bofinger (Bofinger AG) who enthusiastically supported the project. On 14th of January 1966, Baresel-Bofinger signed a license agreement with Bätzner and commissioned the production of the double-shell heated iron ten-ton press.

The chair was first presented at the Cologne Furniture Fair in 1966 and received the Rosenthal Studio-Preis the same year.

Reinforced plastic had only been in use since the late 1940s by designers like Charles and Ray Eames and it is reported that Eero Saarinen had hoped to be able to produce the 'Tulip Chair' (designed 1956) one day completely in plastic. The desire for an all plastic chair was a strong concern for many designers in this period and much research was directed towards accomplishing this aim.

Historical context note

The chair was a huge success with over 120 000 produced. It was very light at just four kilos, as well as stable, weatherproof and stackable. According to Dunas (1996:46), the successors Baresel-Bofinger and the Habit Company factories in Kürten-Engeldorf, Germany endeavoured making the 'Bofinger Chair' with recycled material at the end of 1994. In 1995, a first example was shown at the Cologne Furniture Fair.

Descriptive line

'Bofinger' Stacking Chair, designed by Bätzner Architectural Office, 1964-5, manufactured by Menzolit Werke Albert Schmidt Kraichtal-Menzingen, 1966/8- 1984, fibreglass-reinforced polyester resin, red

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Dunas, Peter, 100 Masterpieces from the Vitra Design Museum Collection (1996), p. 20 and pp. 46-47
'Plastic reinforced with fiberglass had been commonly used in furniture ever since the late 1940s with the work of Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames. When he developed his "Tulip Chair" in 1956, Eero Saarinen has hoped one day to be able to produce this model completely in plastic. His desire for an all-plastic chair was shared by many designers, and throughout Europe research was initiated to accomplish this end.

But only in 1966 did architect Helmut Bätzner succeed in presenting the first mass-producable one-piece plastic chair at the furniture fair in Cologne.
This chair was developed in 1964 and 1965 in connection with construction work for the State Theatre in Karlsruhe for which Bätzner's architecture office was handling the planning. The chair was intended as additional seating for the experimental stages, foyer, café, canteen, and terrace area. Versatile use both indoors and out, as single or as row seating, called for special qualities: the chair had to be light, moveable, stackable, compact, linkable, and weatherproof. The material chosen was fibreglass-reinforced polyester. It was possible to guarantee stability of the legs, seats and back, with minimal materials inputs by opting for moulding. The special shape of the legs follows a double curve. After creating the optimal design in model form, Helmut Bätzner presented the idea to Bofinger, the well-known furniture manufacturer. Together they investigated possibilities for mass production and discovered a suitable partner in the Menzolit-Werke, Albert Schmidt. Since the mid-fifties, this company had specialized in the development, production, and processing of preimpregnated polyester resin mats, which among other things were used for molds in car body construction. Rudolf Baresel-Bofinger, the general manager of Bofinger KG, convinced the chair would be a success, signed a license agreement on January 14, 1966 with Helmut Bätzner and commissioned production of the double-shell heated iron ten-ton press. During the so-called "prepreg-process", in a single operating cycle lasting only five minutes a near-finished chair was produced. The polyester resin was stained throughout in eight colours and, because of the smooth surface of the press molds, chairs were created which required no further finishing (only the edges of the press seams had to be smoothed). In the same year as its introduction, the "Bofinger Chair" received the Rosenthal-Studio-Preis in the presence of Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard and the founding director of the Bauhaus, Walter Groupius. Designed as a relatively low-cost piece of furniture, the "Bofinger Chair" became an ideal seating for public places due to its minimal weight of only four kilos, its enormous stability, its weatherproofing and easy care. Its stackability was also remarkable - eight chairs to up merely one square meter. Altogether more than 120,000 chairs were produced. Millions of cheap plastic garden chairs with similarly shaped legs have duplicated this model in numerous variations.

At the end of 1994, there were attempts by the successors Baresel-Bofinger and the Habit Company factories in Kürten-Engeldorf, Germany, to manufacture to the "Bofinger Chair" using recycled material. The first examples were shown at the Cologne furniture fair in 1995.'

Modern Chairs 1918 - 1970 (Printed for the Whitechapel Art Gallery by Lund Humphries), p. 63.

Labels and date

Stack of 'Bofinger' chairs, model BA1171
1964-5
Designed by Bätzner Architectural Office

Germany (Karlsruhe)
Manufactured 1966/8-84 by Menzolit-Werke, Albert Schmidt, in Kraichtal-Menzingen
Fibreglass-reinforced polyester resin
Commissioned by Wilhelm Bofinger

Museum nos. Circ.435, 437 to 439-1970

The 'Bofinger' is probably the first mass-produced, one-piece plastic chair. Bätzner designed it for additional seating at the State Theatre at Karlsruhe. The chair had to be light, stackable, linkable, movable, comfortable and weatherproof. This was achieved through long experimentation.

With the use of a compression mould, the chair could be made in just five minutes. The plastic was dyed all the way through and given stability by the folded structure of the legs. [01/12/2012]

Production Note

The operating cycle lasted just five minutes, in which time a near finished chair was produced. The polyester resin was stained throughout in one of eight colours, and because of the smooth surfaces of the press moulds, chairs were created which required no further finishing (only the edges of the press seams had to be smoothed).

Materials

Polyester

Techniques

Moulding

Categories

Furniture

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection code

FWK

Qr_O372072
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