Portex Arm Chair  by Peter Hvidt and Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen  1945

 

designed by Peter Hvidt (1916-1986) and Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen (1907-1986)

made by Fritz Hansen Etft

frame beech - front legs turned - back posts steam bent

height: 80cm

width: 61cm

depth: 62cm

The Portex range of furniture was designed to be exported, so there was a desk where the legs could be unscrewed and shipped in the desk drawer, although this chair, actually, was shipped assembled. The designers themselves explained exactly why and in doing so explain functional aspects of the chair that were taken into account in its design.

"While we realized the necessity of being able to dismantle or fold up cupboards, tables and beds during transport, we did not dare use these principles for chairs. A chair screwed together that might be quite stiff to begin with will never in the long run be able to stand up to the stress that it will invariably be subjected to. A chair must often bear great weight, must be able to tolerate being tilted, and will be moved more or less brutally throughout the day. The screw would work in its hole under these stresses, and in the end will loosen. The stacking principle was chosen since it has the advantage that the chair could be assembled and finished at the factory. The disadvantage was that the known stacking chairs shows clear signs that they can be stacked."

The chair was inspired by a Shaker chair although, unlike Shaker chairs, it can be stacked. 

The frame of the seat is interesting with main cross bars between the front legs and between the back posts with the plywood seat over-sailing the front frame rather than being set into a rebate - so making the thin seat a distinct feature. There are timbers running front to back on each side, at an angle, to form the trapezium shape of the seat so that back legs of a chair on top can be slotted down on either side of the seat below when the chairs are stacked. These pieces of timber for the frame are much taller than they are thick - in part because the cross pieces have to be housed into legs with a round rather than a square cross section - so the thickness has to be limited - but it also keeps the frame as light as possible although this was clearly still a fairly robust chair … chairs that can be stacked tend to come in for rather more rough treatment than chairs left in place around a table or left permanently in rows in a meeting room.