cantilevered chair by Mogens Lassen 1933

 

Mogens Lassen was just a year older than his brother Fleming and both were at school with Arne Jacobsen. All three became architects and designers and Fleming Lassen worked in partnership with Jacobsen on several major projects in the late 1920s and through the 1930s including working together on the House of the Future … an exhibition entry from 1929 … and the Library at Nyborg and the town hall at Søllerød. 

Both Mogens and Fleming Lassen travelled widely but it was the buildings by Mogens, particularly the villas he designed, and his furniture that were closer to is generally recognised as the International style of the 1930s. Mogens Lassen studied in France and was offered but turned down a post in the studio of Le Corbusier and returned to Denmark where he established his own design studio in 1935.

The cantilevered chair, designed in 1933, takes as a starting point a chair with a tubular metal frame by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe … the MR20 designed in 1927 … but where the German designer has a simple seat and back rest with a continuous panel of cane across the frame, Mogens Lassen produced a striking and unique design with a basket woven around the frame that encloses the person in the chair.

As with the work by Poul Kjærholm, some 20 years later, the texture and natural colour of the cane is used as a contrast and as a foil to the metalwork.

Through the 20th century many Danish designers used woven cane for the seat and back rests for chairs … for instance the high-back chair, arm chair and sofa from the 1960s by Bernt Petersen … where the frame in wood is the key element of the design and the panels of cane infill … but few created designs that so closely retained the character of a basket where the cane work is the structure. 

Arne Jacobsen designed the Pariserstolen in 1925 but that looks like a chair for a conservatory or garden terrace. 

One of the few modern Danish chairs with a comparable focus on cane work as a basket is the Kurvestol by Nanna Ditzel from 1950 that was made by Ludvig Pontoppidan … a chair that has a large hemisphere of basket with a strong flat rim that was supported on a simple frame in teak with four turned and tapered legs with thin straight cross rails.

by Lassen Copenhagen

 

 

designed by Mogens Lassen (1901-1987)
made by Fritz Hansen Eftf

chrome steel tube, cane

height: 71cm
width: 58cm
depth: 76cm

 

chair for the Bellevue restaurant by Arne Jacobsen 1934

 

one of the chairs designed by Arne Jacobsen for the Bellevue Restaurant and now in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen

 

Kinesiske stole og dampbøjede stole / Chinese chairs and steambent chairs

 

Designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1934, this chair was used in the restaurant at Bellevue - part of a large complex of buildings, including a theatre by Jacobsen completed in 1937, set just back from the beach at Klampenborg, 10 or 11 kilometres north of Copenhagen. 

Jacobsen used the chair again in the town hall at Søllerød - a major building 9 kilometres north-west of Klamenborg that he designed with Flemming Lassen. Work there started in 1939 and was completed in 1942.

Made by Fritz Hansen, the chair is interesting because it is one of the first commercial furniture designs by Jacobsen that was put into production and is important because it appears, in terms of its style, transitional - reminiscent in some ways of standard chairs for dining rooms from the early 20th century but at the same time novel and modern in that it looks relatively simple, with no carved or inlaid decoration, but uses innovative and experimental forms of construction. Using new materials or established materials but in a new way marks chair design in Denmark in the second half of the 20th century.

 

 

Bellevue Restaurant. The main dining room has not survived with the space now divided up by cross walls

 

The Bellevue Chair has a frame in wood but rather than having either a simple plain seat in wood or an upholstered seat of some kind - as in traditional dining chairs of the period - the seat is formed by a single piece of thick leather that is stretched across and over wood bars or rails on each side that are set between the front and the back legs. The leather is fixed with closely spaced nails along the bottom edge of the side rails but is not fixed across the front or the back.

Red Chair designed in 1927 by Kaare Klint (1888-1954) and made by Rud Rasmussen that has a more traditional arrangement of cross rails and has exposed nail heads fixing the leather upholstery

chair designed in 1931 by Rigmor Andersen (1903-1995) who was taught by Klint with leather-covered upholstery over separate frames droped into the chair seat and back

both chairs were photographed in the new display of chairs at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen

 

Leather was used for covering the padded seats of more expensive chairs, particularly for library chairs or formal dining chairs, and in some contemporary examples the upholsterer set the nails in a continuous line along the bottom of the front face of the frame of the seat as a decorative feature - but this chair by Jacobsen, with the seat suspended, has more in common with camping chairs or folding safari chairs from this period although those were normally covered with canvas rather than leather.

By not having a padded or covered seat one stage of work that had to be undertaken by a skilled and specialised craftsman was avoided. Upholstery was a separate and usually the last stage of production, when the chair was either covered over the wooden frame made by the cabinetmaker, as in an upholstered arm chair, or padding and covering for a seat, and possibly for a padded panel for a back rest, were made with separate frames that were then dropped into the open frame of the seat of the chair made by the cabinetmaker.

One advantage of upholstery over a separate wooden frame for a seat for dining chairs was that when it was in place it reinforced and strengthened the framework of the chair which meant that the chair itself could have a lighter structure that you could see but there could also be plates or short struts across the corners under or inside the seat cushion that can not be seen but reinforce or strengthen the finished chair.

Some features of the Bellevue chair are unusual simply because they had to compensate for that omission of a seat frame. So the pair of cross rails at the front are certainly distinctive. Many chairs, if they have a strong seat frame and relatively strong legs, omit cross rails at the front completely but here, in the Bellevue Chair, the upper rail provides the strength that would have been provided by a seat frame but because the front legs and rails are relatively thin and are round in cross section, that restricted or limited the thickness and therefore the strength of the cross rail, so a second rail was added to stop the front of the chair distorting or twisting to left and right as a person sitting in the chair moves. 

The upper cross rail had to be set low enough so that for someone sitting on the seat - even if the leather sags down - they do not feel the rail in the back of their leg - somewhere just above the knee - and the lower rail had to be high enough so that if someone tucks their feet back under the seat - particularly when they shift their weight forward to stand up - then again they should not feel that their legs are against that rail.

The tops of the front legs are proud of the seat, so that the mortice for the side rail is not at the very top so with a possibility that the wood could split, and the top of the legs are also carefully rounded as some people will rest their hands here and push down as they stand up.

details of the Bellevue chair - note the square section of the back leg for the stronger housing of the side and back rails and then the transition to a round cross section above the seat

 

The side rails of the seat are relatively robust - the width is limited by the width of the front and back legs into which they are housed but they have to be thick enough to take the line of nails along the underside without splitting. Their height is determined in part for how they look - for aesthetic reasons - so the chair, when seen from the side, has to actually look as if it is supporting the weight of the person.

These side rails are relatively strong but the side frame of the chair is given additional strength and rigidity by having cross rails towards the bottom that run back from the front leg to the back leg just above the floor. With heavier chair frames - where the side pieces could be thicker and the mortices and tenons holding them in place more robust - these rails can be omitted but here they are necessary to stop the front and back legs splaying apart when someone sits down and stops the sides of the chair distorting as someone leans back. The strength of a mortice and tenon join comes in part from the  sharp cutting of the shoulders of the tenon and these are obviously more difficult to cut precisely when the mortice is set into a rounded timber.

The leather of the seat runs across just in front of the seat back and is not fixed along the back edge.

The back legs are in a single piece from the floor to the underside of the back rest and these timbers, in profile, are curved, partly to make them appear more elegant when seen from the side but also for simple practical reasons … a straight vertical back is actually slightly unstable because the chair can tip backwards more easily as someone sits down or if they lean back in the chair. The back leg splaying out forms a sort of buttress and does change the tipping point for the chair. The lower parts of these back legs, below the seat, are square in section for additional strength and to take a strong cross bar that is set down, out of sight, below the seat and this piece not only makes the back part of the frame stronger, so a lower rail across the back towards the floor can be left out, but the back rail also has to be strong enough to take the long mortice for the bottom of a simple central splat that forms the back rest of the chair.

This splat - a thin plank of wood - is gently curved in profile and runs up to a top rail that is too thin to be described as a head rest. Again it is round in section and is set across the splat like the top cross bar of a letter T. Was Jacobsen suggesting that this top rail could actually be used like a handle for the lifting and moving the chairs across the restaurant?

Above the seat the wood of the back pieces are rounded in section and they are housed into the underside of the cross bar just in from each end. Again, as with the front legs, if the side pieces and the cross bar met at a corner, rather than with an overlap, it would have made the joining of the pieces of timber a potential weak point in the chair frame and this was, after all, a commercial chair for use in a restaurant where it would be subject to heavier use than in a home.

In fact the whole design can be seen as an interesting exercise in balancing the ergonomics of the design with experimenting with construction details so there is, at each stage, a sort of careful trade off between the appearance and the strength of the chair. A sort of reductionism within practical constraints: thinning down parts of the frame makes it more elegant and stylish but it is not taken so far that it makes the chair weak or unsteady and, particularly in a public restaurant, the last thing a young designer needs is people ending up on the floor where chairs have collapsed.

 
 

designed by: Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971)
manufactured by Fritz Hansen Eftf

height: 82.5cm
width: 50.5cm
depth: 54.5cm
height of seat: 42.5cm

Designmuseum Danmark catalogue

 

additional notes:

The Theatre and the adjoining restaurant at Bellevue were designed by Arne Jacobsen and were completed in 1937. They are set just back from the beach on the west side of the coast road that runs north out of Copenhagen. 

 

the Bellevue theatre from the beach with the restaurant to the left and beyond the apartments of Bellavista

Klampenborg is at the edge of an ancient forest that had become an important public park by the 19th century and the park and Bakken, an amusement park in the forest, were served by a suburban railway that terminated here at Klampenborg. With the building of the railway Klampenborg developed into a prosperous suburb.

The park and the beach here, with changing rooms that were also designed by Jacobsen, were a popular destination for people from the city and through the 1930s there were also launches or boats that brought people here for a day out to swim or go to the amusement park or go to the theatre. 

Immediately south of the theatre is Bellavista, apartment buildings also by Jacobsen and also dating from the 1930s, and south of the apartment buildings houses again by Jacobsen.

High stools for the bar in the restaurant - with butterfly shaped back rests - and seating in the theatre - with curved wooden backs forming undulating lines across the auditorium - were even less conventional than the dining chairs.

the buildings in Klampenborg by Arne Jacobsen

Myren / The Ant Chair / FH3100 by Arne Jacobsen 1952

Ant Chair in the permanent collection of Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen

 

The Ant Chair was designed for the canteen of Novo Industry - the pharmaceutical company - or rather - the story is that Arne Jacobsen had designed the chair but Fritz Hansen were not convinced that it was viable commercially. When a director from Novo visited the drawing office to discuss work on the design of new buildings for Novo and admired the chair, he asked Jacobsen about the design. Jacobsen told him it was for the canteen at the new factory and so secured an order for 200 that convinced Fritz Hansen that the design should go into production.

This was not an industrial design, as such, but the design for an industrially manufactured chair for everyday use.

It was launched by Fritz Hansen on the 24 October 1952, on the 80th anniversary of the company, and was shown first at the Danish Society of Arts and Crafts exhibition in Zurich and then at the Danish Museum of Decorative Arts in January 1953.

When the chair first went into production there was a choice from four types of plywood - beech, oak, walnut and teak - and a version finished with black lacquer. Later palisander and Oregon pine were added to the range and there was a version with coloured felt glued to the front face of the seat and the back.

Jacobsen designed the chair with three legs and despite requests for a version with four legs, he objected to the idea and it could not be put into production until after he died.

The legs in steel are held in place at the centre of the underside of the chair with rubber spacers so that they do not sit against the plywood but also to stop the legs twisting or moving sideways if someone using the chair shifts their weight.

The Ant was the first Danish chair that was made with a single shell in plywood that is curved in both planes to form a  seat and back in a single piece of laminated wood.

Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen experimented by cutting slits into the plywood to form a complex shell but Jacobsen achieved a sharp curve between the seat and back while also forming spoon-shaped hollow curves across the width of the seat and the back by reducing the width of the shape at the centre. That is the simple if unromantic reason for the distinct shape of the chair.

The Ant Chair is light in weight and stacks so it was used in public spaces like meeting rooms and lecture rooms. People remark that the chair has a decorative effect particularly when a number are set out in a space together in rows which creates a strong and undulating pattern reminiscent of fish scales.

In an interview Jacobsen revealed that he had considered using plastic rather than plywood but had rejected the idea because it would have made the chair too expensive - mainly because production of a moulded plastic shell requires an investment in expensive machinery.

designed by Arne Jacobsen
made by Fritz Hansen and still in production

laminated wood shell (plywood) and legs in tube steel
a version was made with the legs covered with light grey fluted plastic

height: 77 cm
width: 51 cm
depth: 51 cm
height of seat: 44 cm

 

Chair FH3103 by Arne Jacobsen 1955

 

 

The chair was designed by Arne Jacobsen in collaboration with Dr E Snorrason who gave advice on how to improve the lumbar support provided by the back of the chair. There is a sharper and more pronounced curve at the base of the back and the top of the back has a more generous width to support the shoulder blades.

The initial version made by Fritz Hansen was produced using a plywood faced with teak ... then popular and normally implying a more expensive piece of furniture. 

With fairly straight sides to the seat and angled front corners rather than a smooth curve, the chair is more angular than the other shell chairs by Jacobsen - almost octagonal.

There was a version of the chair with a swivel frame with wheels so that it could be used as an office or desk chair.

 

 

designed by Arne Jacobsen

height: 62 cm
width: 34 cm
depth: 37 cm
height of seat: 42.5 cm

smaller versions of the chair with seat heights of 36 cm and 34 cm were made for children.

Chair 7 by Arne Jacobsen 1955

Skalstole / Shell chairs

 

Designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955, this is perhaps the classic shell chair and is still in production. 

It is made in remarkably thin laminated wood with either a wood veneer or the shell is painted. There are also upholstered versions.

Thin metal legs are bent and meet at a central circle of wood applied to the underside of the shell and with a cover, originally metal and later plastic. There are spacers before the elbow of the leg to hold the legs in position and dampers that ensure that the seat is neither too rigid, making the chair uncomfortable, nor too flexible making the sitting position seem unstable.

The chairs are light and they stack which makes this a popular option for institutional use, such as meeting spaces or temporary lecture rooms but, of course that can be useful in an ordinary home if space is tight or if extra seating is only needed occasionally.

Model 3107 was also produced with arms (model 3207) and with a swivel base for an office chair and the shell can be fixed directly to a step or beam in an arrangement for theatres or auditoriums.

 
 

designed by Arne Jacobsen
produced by Fritz Hansen Eftf

shell laminated wood
legs tube steel with chrome finish

height: 79 cm
width: 45 cm
depth: 40 cm
height of seat: 44 cm

 

read more in an earlier post - design classic: Series 7 Chair

 
 

the Munkegård chair / FH3105 by Arne Jacobsen 1955

 

A small and elegant chair designed by Arne Jacobsen for Munkegård School in Copenhagen. It is sometimes referred to as The Mosquito.

Versions were produced by Fritz Hansen in beech, teak and stained black. The chair has been in production several times but is not currently available.

Jacobsen designed the elementary school that was completed in 1957 and, as with so many of his major projects, he designed so much more than the structure, designing the paving and planting of the courtyards, fittings including lighting and, with the chairs, Jacobsen also designed a school desk in plywood with a metal frame. The design of the desk has a simple flat top or writing surface that is bent to run down the back and then back under the top to form a shelf for books. The front edge of the shelf was turned down in the same way that the front edge of the chair seats was angled down to protect the back of the legs. The frame of the desks also included a hook on one side for hanging a school bag.

 

 

designed by Arne Jacobsen
made by Fritz Hansen

height: 77 cm
width: 40.5 cm
depth: 47 cm
height of seat: 42.5 cm and lower versions with seat height of 36 cm and 40 cm

 

Grand Prix-stolen / Grand Prix Chair / FH4130 by Arne Jacobsen 1957

Grand Prix in the permanent collection of Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen

 

The chair was shown at the XI Triennial in Milan in 1957 - where the design was awarded the Grand Prix from which it takes its name - and then shown at Charlottenborg, in Copenhagen, later in the same year.

In the original version the shell was made with a teak or beech finish or the chair could be upholstered.

The shape of the back is closely related to the FH3103 but here, rather than a straight line across the top of the back, the back has a truncated or stumpy Y shape that makes it, somehow, almost anthropomorphic.

There is a pronounced scooping out to the shape of the seat and at the front a pronounced down turn or lip.

Initially the chair had four separate legs that were L shaped and in laminated beech with a strong moulding to the cross section presumably, in part, to make it look less solid or less heavy. The legs mimicked the profile of the metal legs on the other shell chairs so were angled out towards the floor and at the top were curved but under the seat they were shaped to form a long hammer or hockey-stick shape to form as long a face as possible along the top for the legs to be glued to the underside of the shell. This proved to be unstable - presumably under the weight of a person the centre of the seat moved down or the legs splayed out and even if the glue of the leg held then the face layer of the plywood would presumably split away from the layer below.

 

 

The design was changed and the individual legs were replaced with two n-shaped pieces of steam-bent beech that cross at the centre where they are halved over each other to form a robust join and fixed to a circular plywood plate at the centre of the underside of the moulded shell. That form is closely related to the frame of legs in wood made for the Giraffe - the dining chair that Jacobsen designed for the SAS Royal Hotel.

A version of the Grand Prix chair with steel legs was also produced and in catalogues is identified as model FH3130.

 

designed by Arne Jacobsen
made by Fritz Hansen

height: 78 cm
width: 48 cm
depth: 51 cm
height of seat: 42.5 cm

Lilien / The Lily / FH3208 by Arne Jacobsen 1970

Chair 3208 in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark

 

 

3108 - an early version of the chair - was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1961 but The Lily - or at least a first version of The Lily without arms - was shown at the Scandinavian Furniture Fair in Copenhagen in 1969 and the final form with arms was shown at the furniture fair the following year. The chair was also known as Mågen or The Sea Gull.

Clearly the Lily is related to the other shell chairs in plywood that Jacobsen designed - including The Ant from 1952 and the Series 7 chairs from1955 - but the Lily has a more marked shape with a much narrower waist between the seat and the back that was there to make possible a more pronounced curve of the shell. Carsten Thau and Kjeld Vindum, in their book on the work of Jacobsen,* suggest that this created so much tension in the shell that up to 75% that were made had to be rejected.

One version of the Series 7 Chair had narrow arm rests on what are almost stalks extending up from the back leg - a curious reinterpretation of the back post of a traditional chair in wood - but on the Lily Chair, the arm rests are exaggerated - almost flamboyant for Jacobsen - and make the chair more sculptural and much more dramatic.

Unlike so many of the his contemporaries, Jacobsen was an architect who designed furniture outside the world of the cabinetmakers … even Poul Kjærholm, the designer who moved his work furthest from traditional cabinetmaking and closest to engineering had started his training as an apprentice to a cabinetmaker in Gronbech in 1948.

Jacobsen showed his furniture just once at Cabinetmakers' Exhibition - in 1933 in collaboration with Fleming Lassen - and that was not a success with the critics. Perhaps this chair is the one from this period that is closest to industrial or product design and it is certainly a very good example of how Danish designers in the post-war period broke with all conventions for what a chair should look like or how it should be made.

note:

 * Arne Jacobsen, Carsten Thau and Kjeld Vindum, The Danish Architectural Press (2001)

 

designed by Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971)
made by Fritz Hansen

height: 76 cm
width: 60 cm
depth: 52 cm
height of seat: 44 cm