On the beam: the making of New Tendency and Wagner's bar stool
Germany’s tangled 20th-century history is reflected in its multiple sites of memory and heritage – including that of the revered Bauhaus design school. In Dessau-Roßlau, in Saxony-Anhalt, is the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. It was founded post-reunification and is housed in the rebuilt, Gropius-designed iconic modernist building that bears the school’s famous typography on the outside wall. The foundation undertakes design education, as well as researching and conserving the Bauhaus tradition.
Less well known outside Germany, and two hours down the Bundesautobahn 9 in Weimar, is what is now called the Bauhaus-Universität, the successor college of what was, from 1919 to 1925, Gropius’ Staatliches Bauhaus. The university has a student population of 4,000, who study architecture, art and design, and civil engineering.
Manuel Goller, creative director of Berlin design studio New Tendency, is a Bauhaus-Universität alumnus. Goller set up New Tendency three years ago with Sebastian Schönheit, and the studio designs and creates products which it sells via its own online store. It has also designed a minimal Berlin store for Dutch eyewear brand Ace & Tate, and has contributed furniture to the Berlin showcase apartment developed by Freunde von Freunden magazine in collaboration with Magis. Goller cites his education at Bauhaus-Universität as the prime influence in much that the studio produces, including a set of graphically-shaped stools for the Hotel Wallpaper* bar.
‘One of our main inspirations is the modernist, constructive way of designing things,’ says Goller. ‘We like minimal, graphic shapes. We work a lot with paper and cardboard models in a two dimensional way to form the 2D shapes into a 3D object. With the bar stool, we thought about it a lot. Our first drafts looked like typical bar stools with four legs and a ring for a footrest. But we didn’t want to use a typical shape. We tried to find new ways to make a different-looking stool. We are also interested in trying to make objects that are very solid, but also seem very fragile. Depending on the angle that you look at the bar stool, from one view the middle part becomes very thin, it looks light and delicate, but when you shift to the side angle, it becomes more solid, more like a sculpture.’
For Hotel Wallpaper*, New Tendency worked with Rainer and Peter Wagner’s eponymous high-end office furniture firm to put its design into production. Wagner began life in the 1970s and is based in the Bavarian municipality of Langenneufnach, about 100km west of Munich. Its design focus is on the wellbeing of its users – and their backs – as well as aesthetics. At its factory, Wagner’s production team created a powder-coated steel rendition of New Tendency’s stool in three versions, including black and blue.
‘Steel is a material we work with a lot as it allows us to be really precise,’ says Goller. ‘With modern laser-cutting techniques, it allows us to move one-to-one from really graphical models to something that is perfect for production.’ Rather than designing the traditional ring for a footrest, New Tendency placed a cylindrical beam through the front of the legs. The circular motif is echoed in the solid base and the cantilevered seat. The top of the seat was made using a Raf Simons-designed Kvadrat textile and a nappa leather cushion.
The bar stools generated a lot of enquiries when they appeared at the Handmade show in Milan, so Wagner and New Tendency are now in talks about a production deal, and plan to show off the design at further trade fairs, including IMM Cologne.
As originally featured in the August 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*209)