THE CRAFTSMAN OF THE IDEAL FORM
From furniture to houses, Bruno Mathsson dedicated 60 years of his career to experimentation.
Bruno Mathsson (1907-1988), the most important designer of Sweden, played the violin since childhood. Dozens of Tchaikovski disks are still perfectly organized in the bookshelf at his glass house in Värnamo, city of 20 thousand inhabitants who does not lose sympathy even under the rigorous winter. Besides disks, the bookshelves keep, in the same proportion, the classic books and catalogues of 20th century design. Swedish tradition is present in the dining room, in the form of flowery curtains - in the style of the Austrian Josef Frank, designer who immigrated to Scandinavia and succeeded in the 40´s.
Built in 1965, that House was the first he made to himself. Before that, Bruno used to live in a pension to artists with Karen, his wife. On the edge of a Lake, the construction is a mix of wood, glass and concrete built in a particular way, with thin casings, like a box of picks mounted in an assemble game. "At that time, the construction was almost a 'spaceship ' placed there, and continues to be very different from the neighboring houses, "says Dan Thelander, Director of Bruno Mathsson International."It's amazing how Bruno modified the architecture, even showing it in a small town as Värnamo."
Mathsson never lived in the capital, Stockholm, neither in the United States nor in Japan. He had countless chances to do it, but simply didn´t wanted. He chose to spend his life in the place where he was born and raised up. Bruno Mathsson, reason for a series of homages in 2007- when would complete 100 years - preferred to start a revolution in the place where he was born, and from there, radiate ideas that would influence the entire Scandinavian design.
Bruno was the fifth generation of his family who worked with carpentry. In a country with a rich artisan tradition, especially in the use of wood, that is very significant. However, avid to learn more about the Functionalism movement - which arose between Scandinavian artists and in texts by foreign magazines - he decided to create pieces which combined beauty, functionality and ergonomics.
Since his first creations, in the 1930s, he baptized tables and chairs, with names of women: Ana, Miranda, Eva, Pernilla. The sinuous design of arms, structure and legs of his creations respected the curvature of the body while sitting – something stronger on the feminine universe, hence the reason of names.
Bruno´s research was meticulous: he laminated wood with water instead of steam, as was the custom. The process was slow but gave furniture the strength and the guarantee of being almost indestructible. Experimentation led him to use flexible timbers (case of beech and birch), fibers of hemp, jute and paper. And only in the last years he began to deal with the tubular steel.
"Scouts" indicated his name to be in design exhibitions and Bruno participated in the Paris world Fair in 1937. It led him to represent, as a guest of the United States, the flag of Sweden in the New York World's fair in 1939.
Something attracted Mathsson to America, and, ten years later, he decided to visit there with his wife. The designer saw closely the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, met the couple Charles and Ray Eames, the architect Walter Gropius (founder of the German Bauhaus) and Hans Knoll (present-day brand Knoll). Back to Värnamo, Bruno Mathsson developed interested in researching new ways of living. Remarkable is the difference between the traditional (village houses yellow façade and gable roof, made in the 30's/40´s) and the modern showroom built on the ground of his parents house in 1950).
Bruno made over 40 architecture projects between homes, factories and schools, spread in Sweden, Portugal (his summer house), Denmark and even in Japan - unique country in which he began effectively to license the manufacturing of his furniture, besides the Dux, Swedish brand that launched the futuristic armchair Jetson66. Today, the representation commanded by Dan and his brother still reedits some chairs and tables, the case of Model 36.
"The vintage pieces reach unimaginable prices," says Maria das Graças Bueno, owner of the “Passado Composto Século XX”, a gallery which sells vintage pieces and reeditions by Bruno Mathsson in Brazil since 2002. "The Model 36 seems a sculpture to seat" says.
According to the architect Arthur Casas, it is impossible to disassociate the work of Bruno Mathsson to the environment where it was created. "In Sweden, as well as in all Nordic countries, time runs slowly, there are fewer urgencies and the designer can be attentive to details and be a craftsman," says the architect. "If he was a musician, he would be João Gilberto, such is the coherence of his work during the 60 years dedicated to the profession".
Text by: Olivia Fraga to CASA& - O Estado de São Paulo-13/04/2008
link to the site: www.bruno-mathsson-int.com