MICHAEL VAN BEUREN (1911 - 2004)
Michael van Beuren was born in New York in March 1911. He arrived in Mexico in 1937 looking for opportunities, keen to work as an untitled architect. First, he spent a season in Acapulco, took over the construction and interior design of the Flamingo's Hotel bungalows, and headed to Mexico City. His first jobs in the capital were a series of houses that would carry numbers 1, 2, and 3 on Liverpool Street.
Once settled in the country, Van Beuren realized that it would be difficult to practice architecture without going under the title of an architect. Still, with his skillset and the knowledge he acquired in the Bauhaus, he ventured into the furniture industry. He offered Mexican society a new type of design, contemporary in nature and adapting to the modern architecture that was starting to dominate the design society of Latin America.
In the late 1930s, he began to design furniture with his colleague of the Bauhaus, the German designer Klaus Grabe. They formed a small company that operated under the name of Grabe & Van Beuren.
Following the formation of his first company, Michael van Beuren created Domus, a second furniture firm and probably his best known. The brand opened its first store at number 40 on Hamburg Street in the 1940s; this company served as an umbrella for various brands that flooded the Mexican market with exciting designs and a much more international and modern approach, leaving behind the "Mexican style" created in the search for a national identity.
In 1941, Van Beuren participated in the Organic Design for Home Furnishing contest, organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This contest, for the first time, included Latin American designers. This contest was where the pair formed by the marriage of Clara Porset and Xavier Guerrero and the trio formed by Michael van Beuren, Klaus Grabe, and Morley Webb won an award. After this, the chaise lounge that Michael had named Alacrán went for sale in Bloomingdale's for 69.98 dollars.
In 1950 Fredderick T. van Beuren, Michael's brother, was appointed to overlook the production side of the workshop to make it more efficient and increase the scale to actual factory size. The company then became Van Beuren S.A of C.V. Within five years, Van Beuren, S.A of C.V was already able to produce in series, which allowed them to make several lines simultaneously and preserve quality.
In addition to Domus, Van Beuren produced other successful lines, which were developed at a time when Mexico was looking for a more international aesthetic. For example, the Calpini brand was reported to have a strong Bauhaus influence, according to Espacios magazine in 1951, and Descapóls in 1961. It was one of the more famous lines of the period and had significant sales success in The Port of Liverpool.
Michael van Beuren continued designing and retired to live in Cuernavaca, where he died in 2004. Today his furniture represents one of the most fruitful moments of furniture production in Mexico and has become an essential part of Mexican twentieth-century design history.
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