How a Bicycle Inspired An Iconic Design

Wassily Chair Adler Bicycle

The Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer is among the world’s most iconic furnishings. But did you know that its design was inspired by a bicycle?

The chair (above left), and its story, are among objects included in an exhibit, Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things, opening Jan. 30 at London’s Design Museum. Introduced in 1926, the Wassily, created from newly available seamless steel tubing and bands of canvas fabric, launched a revolution in modern furnishings. And the daring use of  bent tubing for the frame is said to have been inspired by the handlebars of the Adler bicycle (poster above right) that Breuer piloted around the Bauhaus campus in Dessau, Germany, where he was the head of the cabinetmaking shop.  Originally called the Model B3, the chair was renamed many years later in honor Breuer’s friendship with the artist Wassily Kandinsky who had admired the prototype and for whom Breuer created a second chair.

Interestingly, the chair was first manufactured by Thonet, famous for their bent-wood designs. And therein lies another connection to the two-wheeled world: The architect Andy Martin recently designed a bicycle with a curvy beechwood frame inspired by the famous Thonet café chair.

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