Walter Gropius (German, 1883-1969) redesign of Isokon plywood table/stool 1930s
A stool/table with removable tray top, manufactured by the Venesta Plywood Company, Estonia, 193os for Isokon, UK.
The stools were originally designed for the ‘Isobar’ restaurant/lounge within the modernist Lawn Road flats, London (see image). The Isobar restaurant was realised in 1937 after the communal kitchen in the building was converted to a design by Marcel Breuer and F.R.S.Yorke from the Modern Architectural Research Group (the MARS group). Trays were made for some of the stools so that customers cold take the tray to the bar when fetching drinks.
Alistair Greave’s 2004 book Isokon for Ease for Ever describes this rare variation of the plywood stools as having tighter designed cut out shapes than the regular versions seen in the image of the Isobar. He attributes this adaptation of the design to Walter Gropius who during the mid-1930s was in exile in London working for the Isokon group alongside British architects like Maxwell Fry and others. Their designs continued the dogmas of modernist ethics begun earlier at the Bauhaus; simplicity, economy and aesthetic beauty.
It retains its original circular tray built with a thinner plywood edge (they normally always have thicker edged trays to prevent warping) The thin edge is thought to have been part of Gropius’s redesign that may not have been put into production because of the structural difficulties. Both sections are marked by Venesta (the Estonian company employed by Pritchard to manufacture the Isokon plywood furniture)
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