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Diplomatic Encounters. Jules Wabbes and the Production of American Dunbar Furniture in Brussels

Floré, Fredie;

Article:

In the first decades following the Second World War, several renowned American furniture brands entered the western European market. One of the well-known examples is Knoll International, a New York-based producer of “international style” furniture, which since 1951 set up sale and production licenses outside the US (Lutz 2010). Other American companies followed. This article discusses the introduction in 1959 of Dunbar furniture in Europe. The Indiana based Dunbar Company was known for producing an accessible version of modern design, which combined elements of traditional craft with a contemporary look (Gura et. al. 1997). The firm was introduced on the European market through a 1958 license agreement with the Brussels based Jules Wabbes, today considered one of the most original designers of high-end office furniture of his generation in Belgium (XXX 1958, Ferran-Wabbes et. al. 2012). What motivated both parties to set up an official collaboration? As this article will show both Dunbar and Wabbes had the ambition to expand their clientele through contributing in the promotion of America’s cultural and political identity in the Cold War years. One project in particular functioned as a catalyst in this process: the new American embassy in The Hague by architect Marcel Breuer. The interiors of this building were furnished with Dunbar furniture produced by Wabbes in Brussels. Although as a designer Wabbes remained in the background, the embassy project provided new opportunities in the identity construction of his own work, which he preferred to characterize as “universal”.

Article:

Palavras-chave: Dunbar, Jules Wabbes, Knoll, Belgium, Cold War,

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DOI: 10.5151/despro-icdhs2014-0045

Referências bibliográficas
  • [1] XXX (1958) ‘Manufacturer’s and distributor’s agreement’, unpublished document, 27 June 1958, Paris: Jules Wabbes private archives.
  • [2] Carrey, L. (1958) unpublished letter to Jules Wabbes, received on 11 August 1958, Paris: Jules Wabbes private archives.
  • [3] Ferran-Wabbes, M. (2002) Jules Wabbes 1919-1974. Binnenhuisarchitect, Doornik/Brussel: La Renaissance du Livre/Dexia.
  • [4] Ferran-Wabbes, M. (2010) Jules Wabbes, Ghent: Borgerhoff Andamp; Lamberigts.
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  • [6] Floré, F. (2012) ‘Architect-designed interiors for a culturally progressive upper-middle class : the implicit political presence of Knoll International in Belgium’, in Schuldenfrei, R. (ed.) Atomic dwelling. anxiety, domesticity, and postwar architecture, Abingdon/New York: Routledge: 169-185.
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  • [10] Johnson, Ph. (1959) unpublished letter to William A.M. Burden, United States Ambassador to Belgium, 2 November 1959, Paris: Jules Wabbes private archives.
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  • [14] Thurston, G. L. (1958) unpublished letter to Anita Moller, 1 August 1958, Paris: Jules Wabbes private archives.
  • [15] Wabbes, J., (s.d.) unpublished letter to Louise Carrey, Paris: Jules Wabbes private archives.
  • [16] Wabbes, J. (1959) unpublished letter to Gilbert Thurston, 12 January 1959, Paris: Jules Wabbes private archives.
Como citar:

Floré, Fredie; "Diplomatic Encounters. Jules Wabbes and the Production of American Dunbar Furniture in Brussels", p. 335-340 . In: Tradition, Transition, Tragectories: major or minor influences? [=ICDHS 2014 - 9th Conference of the International Committee for Design History and Design Studies]. São Paulo: Blucher, 2014.
ISSN 2318-6968, DOI 10.5151/despro-icdhs2014-0045

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