The Mexico-based architect and designer Michael Van Beuren might not be the household name he once was, but his creative legacy is about to be shot back into the spotlight, thanks to the revival of his designs by the furniture label Luteca.
The New York-based company, which has championed both contemporary and modernist Mexican design since its establishment in 2015, is responsible for bringing back some of Van Beuren’s most iconic works, which have not been produced in over 50 years.
Van Beuren (1911–2004) was born in New York and studied architecture at the Bauhaus under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Josef Albers until its closure in 1933. He moved to Acapulco at the end of 1936, where he oversaw the interiors of the bungalows at the renowned Flamingo Hotel in 1937, and quickly became a formative member of the Mexican Modernism movement.
By 1938, Van Beuren began focusing on furniture design, working with a fellow Bauhaus colleague, Klaus Grabe, to create modern and affordable pieces. Inspired by the local culture and craftsmanship, the duo applied Bauhaus design principles to popular Mexican mainstays, such as woven reclining chaises and wooden dining chairs. Their approach was a success; the pair was one of the winners of a 1941 competition organised by MoMA targeting teams from Latin America called ‘Organic Design for Home Furnishings’, which catapulted them to wide regard.
In the following years, Van Beuren founded his furniture label Domus, which became synonymous with well-crafted, modernist design that garnered fans both in Mexico and America. Along with his own designs, Domus also produced work by Clara Porset, a friend and contemporary of Van Beuren’s. However, by 1951, the company’s move towards more mass manufacturing meant that Van Beuren’s earlier designs were no longer being produced.
Luteca’s Van Beuren collection is a true retelling of each design’s original charm. With the aid of the late designer’s grandson, Mike Van Beuren, original hand drawings from the 1940s were transferred into CAD files for contemporary production. Some samples were also shipped from the late designer’s home in Cuernavaca, Mexico to New York, so that precise measurements could be recorded.
Luteca’s offering is made up of several impressive pieces: Van Beuren’s ‘Miguelito’ series, that includes a bar stool, lounge chair and dining chair all featuring ribbed seats; the ‘Alcarán’ chaise, based on the designer’s winning design for MoMA; the ‘San Miguel’ chair (also a riff on the Mexican butaque seating); and the ‘Line’ lounge chair and sofa, which embody the Bauhaus roots and mid-century flair that runs through the designer’s work. In Luteca’s hands, each piece has been updated with elegant materials and contemporary details, such as brass pivots and powder-coated rods.