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Home About Designers Mart Stam
Mart Stam PDF Print E-mail
* 5th of August 1899 in Purmerend, Netherlands
† 23rd of February 1986 in Goldbach, Switzerland
First of all Mart Stam, his full name is Martinus Adrianus Stam, is an architect. He becomes famous also due to his Cantilever Chair S 33 and Cantilever Armchair S 34. The chairs don’t have hind legs and consist of a tubular steel structure. What do we think of when we ralking about Dutchmen? – Yes, indeed, good football players, tulips, delicate cheese and naturally bicycles. One day while watching a bicycle, Mart Stam is inspired by the cantilever idea. In a meeting with the architects of the Weissenhof Colony, he shows his concept to, among others, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who is inspired as well. Later on, Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer enhance Mart Stam’s prototype.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer go to court against Mart Stam in order to nominate the initiator of this revolutionary chair design and the court awards finally the authorship to Mart Stam.
At first, he becomes an apprentice carpenter and drawing teacher working from 1919 until 1922 in the architecture and urban development practice of Granpré-Molière, Verhagen und Kok in Rotterdam.
In 1922, he moves to Berlin in order to work among others for the architect El Lissitzky, who will be a long life friend. Lissitzky has a strong influence of the social ethic visions of Mart Stam and his principle of functionalism.
Having participated in the Weimar Bauhaus exhibition in 1923, Mart Stam goes to Switzerland for some time, the country that he had chosen to be the place of his self-imposed isolation during the last decades of his life.
In terms of architecture, Mart Stam is concerned with the most urgent social problems in those days and conceives solutions for mass construction of humane and functional housing.
After the CIAM conference in 1928, in which Mart Stam represents the Netherlands together with Gerrit Rietveld, Ernst May enables the young architect to participate in projects for the "Neues Frankfurt" (New Frankfurt) for instance the Hellerhof housing estate. At the same time, Mart Stam also lectures at the Bauhaus being fascinated by its innovative teaching concepts.
Urban development projects lead Mart Stam, Ernst May and his staff members to Russia in 1930.
Together with Willem van Tijen, he starts an architecture firm in Amsterdam in 1935/36 after their retunr from Russia; however, the firm is not crowned with success as they are not awarded many commissions. From their own initiative, they begin to construct reduced and functional terraced houses with ground floor garages in Amsterdam, this type of house becomes known as so-called "Drive-in-Flats".
After the war years during which Mart Stam is the director of the Amsterdam School of Applied Art, he decides to move to the country that was to become the German Democratic Republic (GDR). However, the hopes he has in the new socialist Germany are bitterly disappointing. His attempts to reorganize the Academy of Fine Arts and the School of Applied Arts in Dresden following the Bauhaus concept are not crowned by success either which is why he takes over the postion as director of the Berlin School of Applied Arts.
His sometimes too liberal Bauhaus ideas also encounter resistance there, even being ordered to stay away from the facility in 1952. It is, therefore, not surprising that Mart Stam disappointed by the cultural policies of the GDR, leaves the country highly frustrated in 1953 to return to Amsterdam.
He continues to work as a self-employed architect up until 1966 when he retreats to Switzerland after having suffered from a severe disease. He doesn’t participate in public life ever after and dies in Goldach at the age of 87 in 1986.