A woven cane seat and a gravity-defying cantilevered tubular frame make the Cesca chair one of the most recognisable (and replicated) pieces of furniture in the world. The brainchild of Hungarian-born modernist architect and furniture designer, Marcel Breuer, this strong yet lightweight, malleable frame was inspired by his Adler bicycle and remains a favourite in design-led homes across the world.
“I already had the concept of spanning the seat with fabric in tension as a substitute for thick upholstery. I also wanted a frame that would be resilient and elastic [as well as] achieve transparency of forms to attain both visual and physical lightness,” Breuer once said of his design. “Mass production and standardization had already made me interested in polished metal, in shiny and impeccable lines in space as new components for our interiors. I considered such polished and curved lines not only symbolic of our modern technology, but actually technology itself.”
Breuer was one of the youngest students to enrol at the famed Bauhaus School in 1920 – a design school that celebrated the idea of art intertwined with industry – and the Cesca is a classic example of his favoured rational approach to design. Breuer returned to the Bauhaus to teach tech carpentry from 1925-1928 and it was during this time he designed his tubular steel furniture collection that included another classic: The Wassily Chair. Then known as the B32, the radical design was put into production in 1928 by Michael Thonet. It was later acquired by Italian manufacturer, Dino Gavina, where it was named the Cesca Chair – with Breuer’s permission – after his daughter Francesca Breuer.
Today, the chair is still produced by The Knoll Group in its original natural or ebonised beech (available with or without arm rests), alongside more contemporary revisions including colourful, plushly upholstered seats and taller bar stool versions.
Image 2: Francesca Breuer at the Breuer House in New Canaan, Connecticut. Image by John Naar from the Knoll Archive
Image 4: Marcel Breuer at his New Canaan, Connecticut home. Image by John Naar from the Knoll Archive
All images courtesy of the Knoll Archive