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MICHAEL VAN BEUREN (1911 - 2004)

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Michael van Beuren was born in New York, in March 1911. He arrived in Mexico in 1937 looking for opportunities and keen to work as an untitled architect. First, he spent a season in Acapulco, and took over the construction and interior design of the Flamingo’s Hotel bungalows, then 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 the title of architect, but with his skill set and the knowledge he acquired in the Bauhaus, he ventured into the furniture industry and 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 interesting designs and a much more international and modern approach, leaving behind the “Mexican style” created in the search for an identity national.

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. It was this contest 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. It was then when the chaise lounge that Michael had named as Alacrán began to be sold in Bloomingdale’s at a price of 69.98 dollars.

In 1950 Fredderick T. van Beuren, Michael’s brother, was appointed to overlook the production side of the workshop, with the intention of making it more efficient, and increase the scale to real factory size. The company 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 at the same time and also preserve the quality.

In addition to Domus, Van Beuren produced other lines, alike in success, and that were developed at a time when Mexico was looking for a more international aesthetic. The Calpini brand, is an example, it is reported by Espacios magazine in 1951, and Decapóls (1961), that with a strong Bauhaus influence, it was one of the most popular lines of the period and had great sales success in stores such as The Port of Liverpool.

Michael van Beuren continued designing and retired to live in the city of Cuernavaca where he died in 2004. Today his furniture represents one of the most fruitful moments of furniture production in the Mexico, and has become an important part of the history Mexican twentieth century design.

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