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Mart Stam

Mart Stam

The Inventor of the Cantilever

The Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam was born in Purmerend in the Netherlands in 1899 and died in Goldach Switzerland in 1986. He is the inventor of the famous cantilever chair, which he presented for the first time in 1926. After graduation, he worked as a draftsman for an architects' office, before he was imprisoned in 1920 because he had refused military service. At the time, it was customary in the Netherlands for regular men who refused military service to be put in prison for the length of their service. After his release, he left the Netherlands and moved to Berlin.

He quickly made contact with representatives of the Bauhaus movement such as Marcel Beuer or El Lissitzky and became a teacher at the Bauhaus school. During this period, he developed his famous cantilever which emerged from experiments with gas pipes. At that time, people were frustrated with the outcome of the First World War and demanded sober and functional solutions for architecture and furniture design, which were implemented with the new material steel pipe. Stam presented his chair for the first time in 1927 with the opening of the Weissenhof-Siedlung Stuttgart and thus revolutionised modern furniture design. Thanks to Thonet's commitment since the late 1920s, the tubular steel concept has had a resounding impact and has become increasingly popular.

Stam’s cantilever combined clarity of form and aesthetic economy of construction with the advantage of improved comfort: The comfortable “free-swinging” or bobbing effect, which made opulent cushioning totally unnecessary, was said to feel like sitting on air.

At the same time, Marcel Beuer also developed a cantilever chair made of tubular steel. At the end of the 1920s, there was a legal dispute between the two designers, who were concerned with who had the original idea for the cantilever. Stam won the lawsuit and is since then officially considered as the inventor of the cantilever. The artistic copyright for this strictly cubic legless chair is today at Thonet.

Website by Mart Stam