new master categories

 

Posts on the the Danish Design Review page and the Copenhagen News & Views page will now be kept as short as possible to speed up scrolling down and if there is a longer and fuller version there will be a read more link.

Until now these longer posts have been in separate folders by year but over the coming months, the full version of longer posts will be moved across to folders under the new primary categories so they can be read together and so that there can be separate indexes by category.

Each primary category has a logo that will appear top left on index pages and top left for the full version of the post to help readers keep track of where they are on the site.

The townscape category and the book and exhibition reviews are now up and running and the logos here and in the right-hand column link through to those pages.

 

note:

The inspiration and starting point for the colours for the graphics for the new master categories was a painting by Paul Klee from 1930 that is now in Kunstmuseum in Bern. The colours for architecture, townscape and book and exhibition reviews were all taken directly from the image using Digital Colour Meter but colours for design and kunsthåndværk were edited to deepen the colours to make them slightly stronger.

danish design review

It’s now more than five years since Danish Design Review started - so quite a long time for a design blog. 

From the start, the plan was to create a site more like an on-line magazine than a blog so part of the problem has been the amount posted and, unlike with a book or a magazine, it is difficult to set out related posts in any sort of rational order.

Even planning ahead, to write a number of posts and then to post them in reverse order - so they can be read in a rational sequence - is not always possible.

An alternative is to back-date posts to move them back with earlier pieces or pull older posts forward when new and relevant material is found but that causes problems with links and it’s difficult enough anyway to check and update  external links because major sites often move around their pages with each redesign. Having been on line for so long it’s interesting to see just how much sites for major museums and design companies and studios have changed and most architects now have extensive online sites to showcase current and completed projects and that was certainly not common five years ago.

Five years on, posts here are certainly longer; the subjects covered are wider and the number of photographs is building up so it is more and more difficult to find everything although the Squarespace software does have good ways to tag and link the material but these can get overloaded when a site like this covers such a wide range of subjects. A recent post here is about how these tags and categories are being rationalised and the cloud below is dynamic so it will change as and when categories are edited


To try and sort some of this out, over the coming months, there will be some major changes.

Posts will now be under clearer primary categories - design, kunsthåndværk, architecture, townscape and reviews - so it should be easier to find related posts and there will be more links to earlier material.

At the bottom of each post, links justified to the right have always been to external sites and should open in a new window but there will be more links on the left side at the bottom of a post to link back to earlier material within Danish Design Review. 

The five primary categories cover most of the material to date. Four of these - design, architecture, townscape and reviews are obvious. All that has to be added is that posts on design and architecture will focus as much on the context of why and how as the specifics of what and who and Townscape seems like a broader and more appropriate concept than planning to cover the setting of buildings and topography along with points and comments about social context so posts about how public space is used or how streets and areas develop and change and posts to assess if new buildings reflect ongoing change or initiate change.

Reviews are primarily for book and exhibition reviews although some of the posts about new products or new furniture could be seen as a review.

Art and good architecture and good design and good food all go together so there will continue to be café reviews … if you go to a museum or show room you need at least a coffee and a cake. I once read an old Baedeker guide book where it was clear that one entry for a major cathedral in France was all written from a table outside a good café opposite.




Kunsthåndværk is probably the only primary category that needs some explanation - particularly for readers who are not Danish.

Craftsmanship plays a crucial role in Danish design … not just in the design of furniture and ceramics and glass or in the other applied arts but also in architecture. Look at buildings by Arne Jacobsen and you can see, in everything from staircases to door handles, that Jacobsen understood absolutely what could and could not be done in the process of constructing or making or manufacturing the parts of a new building and expected and demanded the best and often pushed skills to new levels. The best Danish designers understood and appreciated the craft techniques that are the foundation of production and many of the great classic designs were made in close collaboration with highly-skilled craftsmen and cabinetmakers. Obviously that is not unique to Denmark and Danish design but in few other countries is the tradition of craftsmanship so strong in manufacturing.

A tradition of pairing designer and maker survives in the Autumn Exhibition of the Cabinetmakers or in the annual exhibition Skud på Stammen where young student cabinetmakers are paired with established designers to produce exemplary work.

It is about good teaching and training to establish a firm understanding of craft and manufacturing skills but it is also about how those skills and knowledge and experience can be applied right from the start in the design process and onwards into manufacturing.

In this - the anniversary year of the founding of the Bauhaus in Germany - it is important to remember that although the Bauhaus is now associated generally with what is seen as truly modern architecture and with early modern industrial design and production, all students at the school had to learn traditional handcraft techniques and each of the disciplines was lead by a designer and a master of form. After completing courses the certificates stated that students were qualified as journeymen so - even at the Bauhaus - the values, the terminology and the organisation of medieval craft guilds were understood and respected.

In Denmark the teaching and the application of craft skills is also about taking that knowledge forward to challenge, develop and move those skills forward. Look at the work of Statens Værksteder for Kunst in Copenhagen and you see immediately in the workshops how craft skills are not just relevant but crucial and dynamic.

However, the problem is that there is little agreement about which words to use about craftsmen and their skills. I have written about this before but seem no closer to a solution. England has a Crafts Council but although this covers ceramics and glass and furniture and so on, it does not include building crafts that in Denmark seem equally valid, The word craftsman is generally avoided as sexist and to talk about crafts, not only in England but also in Germany and Denmark, still conjures up the wrong images of craft fairs and things like jam.

Artisan and artisanal have been badly used and over used by advertising people so are somehow tainted and to call someone an artisan in England still sounds like a thinly-disguised insult about someone's class or position in society.

I like the word maker and that relates to the Swedish use of form and formgiver with the idea that it is the person who realises the design. The magazine Form was founded in 1905 and Svensk Form is the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design.

But the terms maker or form or formgiver, in the sense of making or giving form to a design, are not used generally in Denmark.

So, as the comparable Danish organisation to Svensk Form is Danske Kunshåndværkere & Designere - the Danish Association of Craftsmen and Designers, it seems sensible, for a site about Danish design, to use the Danish word Kunsthåndværk.

a new year .......

 

The start of a new year so as good a time as any to plan new things.

The site has now been up and running for more than five years so now it can be difficult to find things and some links may be broken - particularly links to external web pages. A priority over the next month or so will be to check that tags and categories are doing what they should do and to think about ways to index or at least group more posts together. For a start, book reviews and exhibition reviews will be moved into new separate folders so indexing and scrolling through should be easier and faster.

A series of posts, started a year or so ago, on Danish Chairs that were designed in the 20th century will continue with more added to the time line and new photographs will be added to some of the earlier posts where that’s possible.

The cloud of words above is actually links to categories so do try exploring a few. It also shows where maybe I need to cover a bit more … so photography seems to get short shrift as do product design and design stores so maybe that should suggest a few more topics for the coming months. Making a similar cloud for he Copenhagen News side showed that there were some odd inconsistencies so on one side it was glass + ceramics and on the other glass & ceramics so that has been sorted out. The Squarespace software means the cloud above is dynamic so will automatically update if I make any changes. Clever.

What is planned is a new and parallel series of posts on chairs designed and made since the start of this century to look at some of the most interesting … to look at new forms and new styles and, where possible, it might be an opportunity to talk to designers, craftsmen and workshops about some of the background to how these new designs evolved.

There is a longer post about changes on the Copenhagen news side of the blog.

 

more from MONO - the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition at Thorvaldsens Museum

Through November and into early December this year, 2018, MONO - a major exhibition of furniture by cabinetmakers - was shown in the rooms of Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen.

This was the annual exhibition - Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling or Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition.

Generally, furniture shown here is not in production and many of the pieces were designed specifically for the exhibition as it is an opportunity to try out ideas or try new forms or to use materials in unconventional ways that might not be obvious for a commercial manufacturer and, above all, designers find ways to highlight the skills of the cabinetmakers.

There are photographs here of the forty-one works shown along with basic information about the materials and dimensions but many of the pieces deserve longer individual posts.

S.E Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling
Thorvaldsens Museum

Piqué by Hannes Stephensen

It's always interesting to see how a design evolved …  if possible to see how a designer tried and then rejected certain options to reach the final form for a design. It's part of that same process when you see designers, having reached one stage, then pick up an idea and take it on to develop a variation.

For the Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition in 2017 - when the theme was Side by Side Out Side - Hannes Stephensen designed a pair of seats that were set on a hefty base like a low bench. With the title Flette Fingre, these seats had a distinct form with an L shape of tapered or wedge-shaped  forming a seat and a backrest - a shape, as the name indicates, like interlocking your finger tips and holding your palms at right angles to each other - and this seat unit was held on a complicated but almost completely hidden steel pivot so the chairs, although they were fixed on a common base, could be twisted round so people could face each other to talk or tuern away from each other.

That pair of seats was made by Kristian Frandsen and this year the same partnership has taken the same form of chair but made slightly smaller and they have developed the design and taken it on to a next stage by separating the chairs and setting each on its own cross-shaped base in wood and a short column that supports the metal pivot and the seat to make a stand-alone chair. With the title Piqué, the idea of a pair of chairs has been kept but one chair is in Oregon Pine and one in ash. In 2017, both the chairs were in oak.

Piqué
MONO catalogue  number 25
designed by:
Hannes Stephensen
produced by: Snedkersind v/Kristian Frandsen

Et stk. i ask, et stk. i oregonpine / One in ash, one in oregon pine
height: 80 
width: 50
depth: 50 cm

 

Flette Fingre designed by Hannes Stephensen and made by Kristian Frandsen
shown at the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition in 2017 at Designmuseum Danmark

 

note:

Side by Side was for furniture outside … the idea of that theme for the Cabinetmakers’ Exhibition was to design furniture that encouraged people to sit and talk. The exhibition was in the great inner courtyard of Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen and, as part of the exhibition, and developing that idea of conversation, the museum showed a number of filmed interviews with the designers and the cabinetmakers. The conversation between Hannes Stephensen and Kristian Frandsen was a revelation because it showed how their common enthusiasm and their obvious and very real passion for craftsmanship in wood drove forward the project.

The design museum regularly uses films and video … both historic and contemporary … to illuminate aspects of the collection or the works of specific designers … the current show of design since 2000 in Dansk Design Nu is a particularly good example. It is to be hoped that these will be shown more widely if the museum can establish something comparable to the Louisiana Channel, the on-line site by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

more from MONO - O-X and Sunrise by Lise and Hans Isbrand

 

Lise and Hans Isbrand designed two pieces for MONO - the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition at Thorvaldsens Museum … a low wide chair called Sunrise  with shaped and curved  seat and back rest in laminated wood supported on an elegant frame in ash and a low table with a circular wood top supported on a steel frame, that for fairly obvious reasons, has the title O-X.

On the first day after the exhibition opened, there was a chance to meet Lise and Hans Isbrand and we talked about their work. They discussed the construction of the chair and were kind enough and patient enough to turn the chair over and turn it around so I could see how the frame is constructed and take photographs.

It struck me that the chair and table are different in character and form but they explore similar and related ideas about construction ... they explore how you construct as thin and as light a support as possible … with one in wood and one in steel.

Sunrise - the chair - has unusual and distinct features in it's design but is clearly in a long Danish tradition of cabinetmaking for furniture made from wood.

The seat and the back of the chair are broad oval shapes in thin laminated wood or plywood that are curved in just a single plane and that is a form of chair that goes back to the 1950s - to shell chairs designed by Hans Wegner - but where chairs by Wegner either had a bold support that was also in laminated wood or had a robust frame in wood, often oak, here, in the Isbrand chair, the seat and back are supported on a complex frame that exploits the qualities of the ash that has been used for legs and cross members that are barely thicker than a dowel and form a complicated and elegant scaffold.

O-X, the low table, also explores and experiments with the intrinsic characteristics of the materials … a large but thin disc in wood for the top is supported on a bent steel frame.

The top is about 20mm thick but the edge, rather than being cut square, has a very precise and deep chamfer that makes the top, from a slight distance, look more like a disc of sheet metal.

For the frame that supports the top, the design exploits the qualities of steel that is not just strong in itself but when bent into sharper curves than are possible with steam-bent wood it becomes even stronger as a support so it can either take a heavier weight or, as here, the parts of the supporting frame can be reduced in thickness.

If the chair is firmly within the Danish cabinetmaking tradition … a tradition of making furniture in beautiful wood, unadorned, in a sharp and precise form of construction executed with real and very obvious skill … the table is different.

It has a stripped back or pared down simplicity that reflects a specifically Danish form of minimalism. I suggested to Hans Isbrand that the table, in its style,  looks back to the 1960s and was firmly put in my place. However, the use of metal for furniture, that actually goes back to the 1930s in Denmark, was strongest in Danish furniture in the 1960s but somehow has never really competed in popular taste with furniture in wood. 

Perhaps, this was because, without deposits of iron or coal, there was little steel production in Denmark or perhaps simply because making good furniture in wood was so well established in Denmark that wood was and still is what Danish buyers choose to buy.

There are clearly great Danish pieces from the classical period of modern design that use metal - so the Super Elipse table by Piet Hein from 1964 or the chairs and tables with steel frames by Poul Kjærholm through the 1950s and 1960s - but even now there is much less furniture in glass and steel in a Danish furniture store than you would expect to see in Germany or France or Italy.

ISBRAND DESIGN

Sunrise by Lise and Hans Isbrand - MONO catalogue 26

The large oval-shaped seat and the backrest of the chair are in laminated wood or plywood that are curved in just one plane and rest lightly on a thin and elegant framework or scaffold in ash.

Ash has a straight and regular grain and this is exploited in the construction with the parts of the frame turned and reduced to a small cross section so the pieces are barely more than the thickness of a dowel.

For a framed chair in wood the simple and common form has a square or circular frame that supports the seat with, normally, two legs at the front, often but not always housed into the underside of the frame, and with two legs at the back that continue above the level of the frame to support a piece of timber for a back rest that is set either vertical or at a slight angle for more comfort and is either between the upper parts of the back legs or fixed across the front of the two uprights. To keep the legs in place the next stage is to add stretchers - lengths of timber between the legs to stop them splaying out and if stretchers are added then the timber of the legs can be thinner.

It doesn't really have to be spelt out like that here except that it shows just how many of those conventions the Isbrands play with and subvert to create such an elegant framework of wood to support the seat and the backrest of their chair.

The other basic elements of construction that should be pointed out is that horizontal and vertical parts of a chair are usually fixed together with mortice and tenon joints with the mortice or slot in the main and usually thicker timber and the tenon or tongue that is fixed into the mortice is usually on the end of the thinner secondary timber. The classic ways to stop the tenon pulling out is either to drill a hole through the side of the mortice and tenon and drive through a peg to hold the two pieces together or to cut a slot across the end of the tenon and, when the timber is in place - with the tenon in the mortice - then a wedge is driven into the end to expand the tenon and stop it pulling out. The strength of the joint is greater the more precisely it is cut and often it is the shoulder, at the point where the timber is reduced in size at the start of the tenon, that has to be well cut, to keep the pieces at the right angle,

In Sunrise the tenons are rounded off at the top and bottom to form an extended oval shape and there are two wedges in dark wood to keep the tenon from pulling out so this becomes a strong decorative feature of the chair frame. The tenons do not have a pronounced shoulder but there are hollow curves back from the joint itself to make the transition from the tenon to the full thickness of the timber.

The frame is complicated. Perhaps the most conventional part is the front frame with two vertical legs with two stretchers - one just below the top of the legs and a second stretcher just below that.

The two back legs are set out at a pronounced angle and do not support the back rest directly but are housed into short verticals that support the back rest and are rather like props. The two vertical supports for the backrest do not run down to the ground but are housed into long raking struts that run from the top stretcher between the front legs angled down and out to the back legs.

The laminated seat rests at the front on short collars or spacing pieces housed into the top of the upper stretcher and the back of the seat is supported on short brackets out from the lower part of the struts that support the back rest.

Again, as with the front of the seat, there are short spacers between the struts and the curved back rest.

To stop the back legs moving outwards there are low stretchers, just above the ground, between the front and the back legs.

There are very nice details to the frame like the deep cups shaped out of the tops of the legs.

Rather than having upholstery or a cushion for the seat there is a simple round hole cut through the laminated wood that is closed with halyard taken from side to side, woven by threading the rope down through small holes drilled around the opening.

Sunrise
MONO catalogue number 26
designed by: Lise and Hans Isbrand
produced by: MoreWood Møbelsnedkeri ApS

asketræ / ash
height: 75
width: 80
depth: 80 cm

 

O-X by Lise and Hans Isbrand - MONO catalogue 38

This is a simple circular top on four short steel legs but those legs are not fixed into the underside of the top and are not part of a frame on cross struts immediately under the top but are set outside the rim with the top of the legs bent in a relatively sharp curve inwards and inserted into hole in the rim where they are held in place by a grub screw from below.

At the floor, the legs are linked by cross piece to the leg diagonally opposite. These X pieces might have met at the centre but they are arched upwards but each with a different curve so one crosses over the other.

The edge of the top could have been cut to form a simple flat face or could have been given a rounded profile but is undercut with a sharp chamfer. Wood cannot be cut to a thin sharp angle but here the vertical at the top edge of the chamfer is as thin as possible and that makes the top, for its size, very elegant.

This chamfer could have been stopped square or angled off but is swept down and then back up to form a vertical where the top of the leg goes into the top of the table. They are held in place by small grub screws.

A large but elegant and deceptively simple but sophisticated table.

 

O-X
MONO catalogue number 38
designed by: Lise and Hans Isbrand
produced by: Gate95 ApS


rustfrit stål, farvelakeret plade / stainless steel, painted tabletop
height: 40 
diameter: 90 cm

 

Introvert position - chair designed by Andreas Lund

 

A compact and robust chair that has an unusual form of construction and proves, as always, that although a design may appear to be simple, the best simple - as here - takes a lot of work to get right.

It has a relatively thick seat in solid wood - so not with a frame - but the edge is undercut with a deep chamfer that disguises that thickness and also creates a sharp crisp line to the front edge when you see the chair in profile.

The seat also has a complex shape that is a semicircle for the back half but combined with an elongated half of a hexagon to the front.

The form of chair construction is also difficult to describe:

The seat is supported on an X with two cross pieces that are halved one over the other. These cross timbers are higher than they are wide and are cut away at the centre so that the solid seat drops down into the cross rather than sitting on top of it.

Each of these cross bars is housed directly into the turned legs … a shorter front leg at one end of the cross piece, with the mortice of the housing just below the top of the leg so that  it stands just proud of the horizontal cross piece, and a back leg at the other end with the housing for the cross bar at the centre of the leg.

That X - of the cross shape underneath the seat - is not regular with the crossing point closer to the back of the chair than to the front so, with unequal arms, the back legs are closer together than the front legs.

A kidney shaped back rest, in thin but solid wood, is gently curved and appears to be in two parts with the grain arranged symmetrically about a central horizontal axis. It is fixed an angle for comfort by cutting a flat face at the face of the upper part of the back legs.

The legs are set vertically, rather than being splayed outwards at the ground to make the chair more stable. Generally vertical legs indicate a simpler and more straightforward chair - a feature associated with country chairs made in a local workshop - and legs that are set an angle that require more precise and more complicated mortice and tenon joints are used to indicate that a chair is more sophisticated.

So one definition of a country chair is that it made in the workshop in a traditional way … barely needing thought and certainly not needing design but each slightly varying from the next as the carpenter responds to differences in each piece of wood. Although Introvert position might look like a simple country chair, it actually has carefully-determined and, of course, beautifully made with considerable precision.

 

Introvert position
MONO catalogue number 1
designed by:
Andreas Lund
produced by: Toke Overgaard

asketræ / ash
height: 77 
width: 38 
depth: 42 cm

 

En stol / A chair - designed by Johannes Foersom & Peter Hiort-Lorenzen

 

This is a deceptively simple but very clever design - like a child's drawing of a chair or a cartoon drawing of what a chair should be like - a chair that should be in a Walt Disney cartoon like the Sorcerer's Apprentice - but beautifully realised in wood.

With rounded corners and rounded edges it's the very opposite of thin and elegant so it is somehow comforting and it brings out the soft, warm and almost gentle, qualities of good oak in a way that is found too rarely in modern furniture.

The seat is solid and not round but squarish with strongly-rounded corners and the edge of the seat is rounded off with the most pronounced rounding on the top edge rather than it being a symmetrical moulding or being undercut. The four legs are robust and turned - so round rather than square in section - and tapered - so wider at the top and narrower at the ground -  and the foot is not cut square or flat but also has an obvious rounding.

The legs are set directly into the underside of the seat but into blind mortices * and they are angled outwards slightly for stability. Because the legs are relatively thick, stretchers that are necessary in lighter and thinner chairs to stop the legs splaying out or twisting, can be omitted here.

The back rest is substantial and sharply curved - in the horizontal plane - embracing the back of the sitter but is not in plywood but is cut from oak and again is given a softer, smooth shape with rounded corners and rounded edges. It is supported on four robust flat splats - rather than turned spindles - and again the edges are smoothed round and, like the legs, these splats are held in place with tenons in blind mortices so no distractions from anything as complicated as a peg or a wedge.

Maybe it sounds silly to say this but it seems to be a deliberately unpretentious and an amazingly open and friendly chair. To use a phrase normally associated with candles - this is hyggelig.

 

 

En stol / A chair
MONO catalogue number 24
designed by:
Johannes Foersom & Peter Hiort-Lorenzen
produced by: Kvist Industries A/S

egetræ / oak

height: 73
width: 55
depth: 52 cm

 

 

 note:

* In simple furniture, particularly in what is often called country furniture, the most common way to fix turned legs to a solid seat is to cut a round tenon at the top of the leg and, with a hole completely through the seat as a mortice, the tenon is held in place by cutting a slot down through the tenon and once the leg is in place, the tenon is expanded by driving in a wedge from the top. The strength of the leg depends on the precise and sharp cutting of the mortice and the shoulders of the tenon.

Chair by Anne Fabricius Møller at MONO - the Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition

 

 

Stol / Chair: Spøjs / Speys - MONO catalogue 3

What you notice first about this chair is the striking colour. It's not paint, because you an see the grain clearly but it's not stain … the chair is made in hardwood from a tree of the genus Peltogyne that is native to South and Central America and is known, for fairly obvious reasons, as Purpleheart because the heartwood turns a deep purple after the timber is cut.

But it's not just the colour that is unusual. The chair has an unusual form that was inspired by a work of the German artist Joseph Beuys that is now in the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. It has a solid and relatively thick seat in wood with four turned or round legs that are slightly tapered - so thinner at the floor - and set just in from each corner but with a pronounced splay outwards at an emphatic angle to make the chair stable. These legs are fixed with a round tenon that goes through the seat and is held in place by a wedge driven down into the tenon from above.

So … so far fairly conventional.

But the chair is rectangular - much deeper than it is wide - with a back rest fixed across the narrow end … well a back rest if you sit astride the chair with your back against the rest or it is a single arm rest if you sit on the chair as if it is a bench.

This backrest / armrest is shaped rather like a staple or perhaps more like a squared-off and simplified version of the Greek letter Pi [ π ] with two uprights in turned wood and a straight but tapered cross bar linking the two at the top. This is dropped down into deeply-curved vertical grooves or channels on each long side of the seat - just in from the corners of the narrow end - and down and slightly inwards to cross over the legs - again running through rounded vertical channels but here cut in the legs - and stop short of the floor.

  

Spøjs / Speys
MONO Catalogue number 3
designed by
: Anne Fabricius Møller
produced by: Toke Overgaard

Amaranttræ / also known as amaranth and purpleheart
height: 69 
width: 48
depth: 63 cm

more from MONO - 2Gether by Steen Dueholm Sehested

 

At Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, in November and early December this year, there was a major exhibition of furniture by cabinetmakers. This was MONO - the Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling or Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition.

Generally, these pieces are not in production and many were designed specifically for the exhibition as it is an opportunity to try out ideas or use materials in unconventional ways that might not be obvious for a commercial manufacturer and designers find ways to highlight the skills of the cabinetmakers.

There are photographs here of the forty-one works shown along with basic information about the materials and dimensions but many of the pieces deserve longer individual posts.

2Gether by Steen Dueholm Sehested - MONO catalogue 13

Stools with an X-shaped frame have a well-established place in Danish design - the display of chairs at Designmuseum Danmark has nine stools of this form.

Most of these stools are folding stools with two frames that are pivoted or hinged at the centre and open out or fold out to form an X shape that supports a seat that is often canvas but can be leather or slats of wood from side to side across the top.

Here, in the stool designed by Steen Dueholm Sehested, there are two pieces - each a complex C shape, with the wood not a constant thickness but thicker at the centre and tapered or thinner towards the top and bottom and curved in both planes with slots cut into them so that they can be slotted or linked together. The C shapes cross over, curve back and cross over again so the base and the top on each side are part of the same piece to create an elegant and sculptural form.

Such complex curves could not be formed from single planks but are made up with finely-cut and joined blocks with the grain forming a part of the design.

The side pieces do not sit square on the floor but the bottom edge is champfered and cut to a sharp curve so the stool has just four points of contact with the floor.

 
 

2Gether
MONO catalogue number 13
designed and made by:
Steen Dueholm Sehested

formspændt egetræ / moulded oak

height: 44
width: 38
depth: 26 cm

the danish chair - an international affair

 

chairs in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark in the display that was designed by Boris Berlin and completed in 2016

Designmuseum Danmark have just published a book about chairs in the collection of the museum. Most of the chairs are from the 20th century and most are Danish although there are several chairs that were made in the 19th century -  an English Windsor Chair, an American Shaker Chair and Chinese chairs - that have been included because their forms of construction influenced Danish designs - and there are some modern international designs including chairs from England, Italy, Austria, Germany and the USA that help to set the Danish furniture in a wider context.

Essentially, the book takes the form of a catalogue with separate entries for nine stools and for 104 chairs with each on a double-page spread although for 31 of these the entries continue over to a second double-page that is used for historic photographs of the chair or for reproductions of working drawings.

Descriptions for each chair are succinct with most of the entries just over a hundred words although several are shorter and only two of the chairs have a text that goes into a second paragraph.

This certainly gives the book a clear and tight discipline.

Because this is not a continuous narrative text, it reads more like good museum labels and that is appropriate as the book accompanies a new gallery for the collection of chairs in the museum that was designed by Boris Berlin and completed in 2016.

With a relatively unusual format - the book is 150 mm wide and 270 mm high - the initial impression is that this is a handbook or even a pocket guide but at 32 mm thick and printed on heavy, good-quality paper this is a hefty book so would need a large pocket.

Although it is tall and narrow,  the double spread of facing pages gives a good and attractive square format. My only criticism of the book is that several interesting historic photographs and illustrations that have been placed across two pages are broken and distorted by a tight gutter.

Christian Holmsted Olesen, the author of the book, is a curator at the museum and wrote a seminal book on the work of the Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner - Wegner - just one good chair that was published as the main catalogue for an exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark in 2014. His introduction here is short but wide ranging and puts chair design in the much wider context of Danish design in the 20th century.

His aim is to show "how the so-called Golden Age of Danish furniture design was shaped by the study and refinement of historical furniture types," so the chairs in the book are not presented chronologically or by country but grouped by type … by form of construction. Types here are slightly different from the categorisation of form types in the museum gallery - presumably to be less specifically Danish and slightly more obvious for the foreign reader. The most straightforward change is that Shaker chairs, Chinese chairs and steam-bent chairs and the Klismos type of chair and Round Arm chairs - all types specified in the museum display - have been re-arranged in the book and those groups given new names. There is a new category for "Peasant chairs" - here including the influential Shaker chair from the collection and the well-known Church Chair by Kaare Klint and the People's Chair by Børge Mogensen - and the rest are divided between Bentwood chairs and Frame chairs.

In the book the categories for form or type are:

Folding stools and chairs
Low easy chairs
Peasant chairs
Bentwood chairs
Frame chairs
English chairs
Windsor chairs
Shell chairs
Cantilever chairs

Each section is prefaced by a list of the specific chairs of that type or of that form along with the useful outline sketches that were developed for information panels in the exhibition.

The book concludes with profiles of nine prominent and influential Danish designers …. Kaare Klint, Mogens Koch, Ole Wanscher, Børge Mogensen, Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjærholm and Verner Panton.

Again, these are short accounts but authoritative - presumably for the general reader who wants more information for context - and finally there is a short but again useful list of recommended books for finding out more.

review of the museum chairs

The Danish Chair an international affair
by Christian Holmsted Olesen
Designmuseum Danmark with Strandberg Publishing 2018

layout and cover design: Rasmus Koch Studio

  

Designmuseum Danmark
Strandberg Publishing
Rasmus Koch Studio

Pictograms used in the introduction to the exhibition for a diagram of the types of chair and to represent the specific chairs in each type are used here as stylish end papers to the book and then as a quick-reference index at the start of the section on a type or form of chair … here Low easy chairs. Most chairs have a double page spread - so here the Windsor Chair by Ole Wanscher from 1942.

There are historic drawings for some chairs - here the Y or Wishbone Chair by Hans Wegner and historic photographs including the assembly hall of Kvinderegensen in Copenhagen - the university hall of residence for women with the chair designed by Rigmor Andersen in 1931.

The last section of the book has short accounts of the lives and the training and work of nine designers “who shaped their field.”

 

Spanish Chair by Børge Mogensen 1958

photograph taken at the showroom of Fredericia in Copenhagen

 

Børge Mogensen - the zebra skin and the wall hanging suggest that the photograph was taken in 1958 on the exhibition stand of the cabinetmaker Erhard Rasmussen at Kunstindustrimusset

 

designed by Børge Mogensen in 1958
shown by Erhard Rasmussen at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition at Kunstindustrimuseet in Copenhagen in 1958

made by Fredericia

height: 67 cm
width: 82.5 cm
depth: 60 cm
height of seat: 33 cm

The Spanish Chair designed by Børge Mogensen was first shown in September and October 1958 at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition at Kunstindutrimuseet in Copenhagen - now called Designmuseum Danmark. Produced by the Danish furniture company Fredericia - they are now celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The chair was shown in an interesting room setting along with a very large sofa upholstered in a giant check that was said to be large enough to sleep three and there was a zebra skin on the floor and models of yacht hulls across the wall … all with the title “furniture for a country house.”

They were described by the critic Johan Møller Nielsen as -

“the chair and couch for the consummate idler! It is hardly possible to make furniture more expensive than this. The whole interior is wonderful to look at and to to be in, and it would be well suited to be exhibited in one of the rooms of the ‘Louisiana’ museum of modern art as an example of the best furniture design of our age. But it is of no value whatsoever to the average citizen …”

Louisiana - just up the coast from the city - had only opened that August.

Even reading the criticism several times, and having typed it out, it’s not clear if this is praise or criticism.

Of course, it’s ironic that Børge Mogensen, is being damned here, apparently, for designing furniture that the average citizen could not afford, because he was and is best known not just as one of the great designers of his generation but through the 1940s as the head of design for FDB - the Danish Coop - when they produced well-designed modern furniture of a high quality and at the lowest price possible.

For the exhibition in 1958 the set of Spanish chairs were made by the cabinetmaker Erhard Rasmussen but the design was then produced by the Danish furniture company Fredericia who still make the chair.

To mark the anniversary of the Spanish Chair, Fredericia have relaunched the dining chairs, with and without arms, that were designed in 1964 that have the same form of set and back rest with leather stretched across the frame and held in place with large buckles.

Fredericia