chairs in our woodworking classes bought a series of cumulative
benefits, beginning with their historical importance—making
these chairs is to participate in that history.
From the perspective
of teaching techniques, chairmaking is a complete woodworking
exercise. As Domingos Marcellini has written, “the chair is the
most difficult type of furniture to make, not one of the lesser
exercises, due to the small dimensions of the component parts.
(Practical Manual of Woodworking, Ediouro, p. 158).
tried to facilitate the process, whether in an industrial or
craft setting, by using simple woodworking techniques. His
minimalist furniture seems to be made backwards, which is both a
criticism and a stimulus to try making it.
This is the case with
his “Krat” (Crate) furniture, made of lumber salvaged from
packing materials. His ideas were very advanced for the time,
and have become icons of modern furniture design.
In this article I
cover the main steps in making the famous Red and Blue and
Zig-Zag chairs, following the original plans in the book How to
Construct Rietveld Furniture (Peter Drijver and Johannes
Niemeijer, Thot pub.), and the alternative version of the
Zig-Zag chair made of veneered plywood.
Rietveld seated in
his armchair in front of his workshop
(How to Construct Rietveld Furniture, ed. Thot, pg. 29)
Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
The son of a
furnituremaker in Utrecht, Holland, Rietveld learned his craft
in his father’s workshop. In 1911 he opened his own woodworking
shop, and later became interested in architecture as well. He
participated in the Dutch artistic movement called “De Stjil”
(literally “The Style”) begun in 1917.
The group’s approach was
based on the “precise and forceful division of space; the
tension and equilibrium they achieved through asymmetry; their
bold and imaginative use of basic forms and primary colors; and
the ultimate simplicity in their design solutions.” (Layout: The
Design of the Printed Page Allen Hurlburt, Nobel pub., p. 35).