The Luther Factory

Posted on november 1st, 2010

Exhibition – ‘The Luther Factory: Plywood and Furniture’, The Museum of Estonian Architecture, Tallinn, May – August 2004 and the accompanying catalogue: J. Kermik, The Luther Factory: Plywood and Furniture, Tallinn: The Museum of Estonian Architecture, 2004, ISBN 9985-9400-7-5.

In 2002, following the publication of the A. M. Luther monograph, I was invited to curate an exhibition of Luther furniture at the Museum of Estonian Architecture. The aim of the project was to consolidate my previous research on A. M. Luther and to create an overview of the company’s design legacy which uniquely span over 70 years. An extended catalogue with edited texts from my previously published work on A. M. Luther and the chronology of the company’s furniture designs accompanied the exhibition. The catalogue was published in Estonian and English to make this material available for international researchers.

One of the aims of this exhibition was to represent A. M. Luther’s history, which had been undeservedly overlooked by design historians, and to emphasise the importance of its contributions both to plywood production and furniture design. My curatorial programme intended to create the most up-to-date and complete catalogue of A. M. Luther furniture designs and products.

In contrast with the company’s last promotional exhibition of 1939, which responded to the need to introduce contemporary and affordable furniture to wider groups of the modern society, the exhibition curated for the Museum of Estonian Architecture took a historical viewpoint.

Display of furniture and pre-fabricated plywood seats was articulated and zoned with additional photographic and textual information. The conceptual axis of the exhibition was set up to track Luthers’ ideas from early standardisation to modernist design principles. The location of the venue had a symbolic meaning because the Rottermann’s Salt Storage, which has been recently re-furbished for the Museum of Architecture, is situated in the historic business and trade area next to the Port of Tallinn, where A. M. Luther’s production started in 1877.

Exhibits included in the show reached fifty chairs, a small selection of related products to illustrate different plywood processing and finishing techniques (e.g. plywood seats) and photographic panels. I was able to identify and document some Luther models through additional research during the 18-month preparatory period prior to the exhibition.

This project was supported by the Estonian Cultural Endowment, the Estonian Ministry of Culture and the University of Brighton FRSF Grants Award Scheme.

Citations

This is a useful and descriptive insight into radically transformed living environment of the early years of the last modernist century, which saw new types of minimum dwelling and efficiently organised offices, with changing attitudes towards spatial relationships and requirements for inexpensive and lightweight furniture products.
(Eesti Päevaleht [Estonian Daily Newspaper], 19 June 2004 review by T. Ojari)

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