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PRINT April 1992

MUSEUM PIECE

Design for Turning Workers into Burghers

Gelsenkirchener baroque—colloquially known as GE-baroque—is not well known outside Germany. Here, however, everyone instantly knows what is meant: a style of furniture design characterized by sweeping and overladen forms, respectable, stuffy, and shabby. Which doesn’t mean that the pièce de résistance of this style—a weighty kitchen hutch over six feet wide, five feet high, and two feet deep—was a bargain. Quite the contrary, it cost a worker two or three months’ wages, a price that, at first, only the well-paid miners of this Ruhr-district city could afford.

Yet the design criteria that made these hutches, wardrobes, kitchen tables, and the like seem valuable, and their owners feel well-to-do, were a sheer facade. Machine made of flexible veneers with glued-on appliqués, GE-baroque furniture was neither of solid wood nor handcrafted. In Germany, such imposture, as we all learned from the

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