One might think that it is a relatively easy exercise to track down one of these common schoolteachers’ desks. After all, almost every school classroom in South Africa had one of these over a period of sixty to seventy years.
That is what we also thought when we launched Huisraad Modern more or less six years ago. After all, apart from being common, they were also part of a pretty cool design history, being in the tradition of Marcel Breuer’s revolutionary tubular steel Bauhaus designs.
But we were wrong. After all these years this is the first one that we could lay our hands on. Baffling, isn’t it? But when you really think about it, it is not so unusual. Speaking to a teacher or two, we found out that they were still in many a classroom in South Africa. That solves the riddle They are hard to find because they are all still in use! It makes sense. Education in South Africa grew exponentially in numbers over the last 30 years. If the desks were still good, why get rid of them?
These desks are easy to maintain. They have a pipe frame that can be sanded and spray-painted. And the wood is solid, being from a time in the 1940’s and 1950’s when resources such as solid wood were still not seen as a scarce commodity. It can be sanded and sealed every 10 years before it will perish in many more decades.
To be honest, the fact that these are all still in use, is a wonderful testimony to the Bauhaus principles from the 1920’s, of simplicity in design, functionality, of being true to the real nature of materials, of the economic use of materials, and of practising good design even when using common materials and mass-producing furniture. What is more common than pipe and plank?
That they are still being used is a much better testimony to the Bauhaus principles than some hipster vintage dealers finding them and flogging them.