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.

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.”

 

TRÆ, SAKS, PAPIR / Wood, paper, scissors

Karmstol, Stitched wood and a Skammel and Massive weaving

 

Knitted wood

Massive weaving and Folded wood

Knitted weaving and Folded wood

Knitted wood

An important exhibition of recent work by the furniture designer and architect Else-Rikke Bruun has just opened at the gallery of the Association of Danish Crafts and Designers in Bredgade .

There are several strong themes running through the works shown here but perhaps the most interesting and surprising idea is about not just defining space but also exploring shadow as a strong component as if it is itself a material element in the design.

Five screens in wood - the main works - define space but also occupy space and very considerable care was taken to set the lighting and to use the natural light of the gallery so strong shadows on the floor dissolve the sharp edge between the vertical of the screen and the horizontal surface of the floor and views through the screen and light coming through the screen from the other side change as you move round the space.

After completing her training as an architect Else-Rikke Bruun studied Arabian architecture for three years and here not just the fragmenting of light but also the use of precise geometric forms show the influence of Arabian architectural forms. Walking around the exhibition Else-Rikke explained that she is fascinated by patterns and the way we look for patterns and geometric pattern has a strong role in architecture of the Middle East, North Africa and southern Spain.

Influence from Japan is acknowledged both in the way the screens and the arrangement of faceted blocks of wood in the chair and in small panels reference the Japanese art of folding paper - two panels in wood are titled Origami panel - but also there is the sense of a Japanese aesthetic in the calm and measured division of space - a key feature of the way the pieces have been arranged in the gallery.

All the works shown are made with incredible precision so they also have the quality of fine engineering - particularly in the way separate pieces are linked or joined together or have different forms of hinge: all the screens can be articulated to adjust the angles of the parts or the alignment of the whole screen and Knitted wood folds back in on itself.

Another strong theme is inspiration from textile art and that is shown directly in the titles of three of the works … Stitched wood, Massive weaving and Knitted wood. This is not just about how elements interlock - Veneer has what are in fact giant warp and weft in cut plywood - but, as with woven textiles, the visual character from a distance is different from the complexity and subtlety that is revealed as you move closer.

Four of the works exploit the properties of laminated wood and develop different techniques for cutting to shape, bending, linking or interlocking plywood.

Use of colour is important but generally subtle … the screen titled Massive weaving uses spray paint so colour is strong on the cross-cut ends of the battens but fades out along the length. This work was developed with the colour artist Malene Bach. Generally subtle except that Knitted wood has a strong colour on one side that counterposes the shadow as you look through the interlocking curves.

The exhibition is the culmination of over a year of work specifically but actually develops and builds on themes that were first shown by Else-Rikke Bruun in the craft Biennials in 2015 and 2017.

Immediately  before the exhibition Else-Rikke Bruun had a residency at Statens Værksteder for Kunst / Danish Art Workshops in Copenhagen and in a longer review here both the development of the main ideas and themes of the exhibition and the role of the workshops in giving artists access to space and equipment to realise their work will be discussed.

Stools in Oregon pine were made by Anders Petersen Collection & Craft in Copenhagen.

Karmstol, the chair in the exhibition, took, as a starting point for its design, round-headed niches at each end of this gallery. It is not strictly site specific but does hint at just how carefully-considered this work is with strong references to the design of Classic Danish chairs while experimenting with both form and construction techniques. It is an important piece that blurs our artificial boundaries between art, craftsmanship and utility and will be the subject of a separate post.

A longer review of Træ, Saks, Papir will be posted here  

Danske Kunsthåndværkere og Designere

Else-Rikke Bruun

 

the exhibition continues until 20 December 2018 at
Officinet, Bredgade 66, Copenhagen

MONO - Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling / the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition 2018

Piqué
designed by:
Hannes Stephensen
produced by: Snedkersind v/Kristian Frandsen

Sunrise
designed by:
Lise og Hans Isbrand
produced by: MoreWood Møbelsnedkeri ApS

 
 

The Cabinetmakers Autumn Exhibition for 2018 has just opened at Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen.

SE - Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling - The Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition - is an association of 81 designers and manufacturers. Each year their board select a venue for their exhibition and set a theme along with any specific rules for a particular year - often to do with dimensions but this year also stipulating colour - so each work will be restricted to just one colour with the choice limited to either the natural colour of the material itself or to one of the strong and distinctive colours used in the original decorative schemes of rooms in Thorvaldsens Museum.

Each year, guest designers and guest manufacturers can apply to show their work. 

When setting the theme for this year, MONO was suggested to imply a range of associated ideas through monochrome, monolith, monopoly and monologue.

A subheading for the exhibition - furniture shaped by craftsmanship and insight - is important and significant: these pieces highlight the skills and the experience of the cabinetmakers who, in some pieces, take their chosen materials to new extremes and, in all the works, push their workshop techniques to the highest level of quality. So the exhibition is in part about the style and the form of each work but because, the cabinetmakers also represent a long and well-established craft tradition in Denmark, these pieces are about understanding the materials, to know what can be done and how, and to use incredible skills to shape, finish, join, refine or reduce the parts that make each work.

There are forty one works in the exhibition. Most were produced in a partnership between a designer and a cabinetmaker or furniture manufacturer - in many cases a  partnership that is now well-established over many years and over several projects shown at the Autumn Exhibition although several pieces were both designed and made by the same person.

The exhibition is also an opportunity to experiment or to produce designs that might otherwise not be commissioned … the aim is not only to challenge the skill of the maker but also to challenge the preconceptions of the visitor.

 

the Autumn Exhibition continues at Thorvaldsens Museum until 9 December 2018

Thorvaldsens Museum
SE - Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling

Cupola drejestol / Cupola swivel chair
designed by:
Niels Gammelgaard
produced by: Northern Layers

En stol / A chair
designed by:
Foersom & Hiort-Lorenzen
produced by: Kvist Industries A/S

Introvert position
designed by:
Andreas Lund
produced by: Toke Overgaard

Rum / Encircle
designed by:
Troels Grum-Schwensen
produced by: Malte Gormsen

2Gether
designed and made by:
Steen Dueholm Sehested

Bloom
designed by:
Hannes Stephensen
produced by: Egeværk

Beside
designed by:
Line Depping
produced by: Skagerak Denmark A/S

Guldlok / Goldilocks
designed by:
Monique Engelund
produced by: Sune Witt Skovhus

 
 

MONO - exhibition catalogue

 

The catalogue for the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition in 2018 at Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen has a general introduction to the exhibition by the selection board and then for each work there is a double-page layout with a full page black and white photograph for each of the works.

These monochrome images are dramatic and chime with the theme of the exhibition but also give a strong emphasis to the form of each work.

Some pieces have a descriptive or evocative name - so Calm or Look don’t touch and a cabinet for the display of special possessions has the title Ego - while other titles are more straightforward, with works described as Chair or Table and Chair.

Of course the catalogue sets out the name of the designer and the name of the cabinetmaker or the company who realised the work and each entry includes the materials and the dimensions of the piece.

There is also a short paragraph on each work to set out any thoughts that inspired the design or to talk about technical details - many of the pieces use material in an innovative way or the construction is much more complicated than is immediately apparent - and there is a translation in English.

Graphic design is by Studio Claus Due and the black and white photographs were taken by Torben Petersen.

Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling / The Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition 2018

Thorvaldsens Museum

Studio Claus Due

 

tripartite Shell Chair by Hans Wegner 1949

the Tripartite Chair now in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark

 

 

More often than not, when someone describes a chair as unique then it is either hyperbole or they are writing for an advert or a sponsored post ……

…. but the tripartite shell chair - designed by Hans Wegner and shown to the public at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1949 - really is unique because just one chair was made by the cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen and after the exhibition it was not sold but taken by Wegner to use in his own home - the design was never put into production.

Wegner had previously designed furniture with shaped and curved laminated wood for Fritz Hansen - Chair FH1936 and a bench or sofa version FH1937 and the tripartite chair was not the only chair in plywood in the 1949 exhibition because Børge Mogensen, Wegner's colleague and friend, also showed a shell chair.

Although the form of the tripartite chair seems simple - a wooden frame with three separate pieces of laminated wood that are shaped and curved for a seat, back rest and head rest - it is difficult to describe the shape of the chair and almost impossible to describe the frame that supports that seat, back rest and head rest.

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dining chairs by Inoda+Sveje

The Japanese designer Kyoko Inoda and the Danish designer Niels Sveje - who have their studio and showroom in Milan - have produced two dining chairs - DC9 and DC10 - in partnership with the Japanese cabinetmakers Miyazaki.

Back in September, during the London Design Festival, they took part in a talk and discussion at Aram's store in Covent Garden with Daniel Aram and with Marcus Fairs - the founder and editor of the online design magazine Dezeen. The event was streamed live on the Dezeen site but is still available to view on the Dezeen Facebook page. They made important points about the links between Danish and Japanese design and about the importance of both craftsmanship and quality in furniture production and about how designers and craftsmen can work in a close partnership.

This year has seen a number of exhibitions and events in Copenhagen that have marked the centennial anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic links between Japan and Denmark and it was inevitable that similarities between modern Japanese design and modern Danish design and the influence of each country on the art and design of the other has been discussed.

Perhaps the most obvious characteristics found in modern design in both countries are the appreciation of natural materials and the importance placed on craftsmanship and to these Daniel Aram added that both countries have a 'design rigour' … meant presumably in the sense of being thorough or meticulous. He elaborated on that point by observing that Japanese and Danish designers and craftsmen seem to master materials in order to produce beautiful objects.

In the session at the Aram store, Niels Sveje explained how their partnership with the Japanese cabinetmakers developed.

Miyazaki are a small company - with about 25 people - but all parts of production are done in house and everyone works on furniture that is produced in batches so there is a concentration or focus that helps to ensure quality control. As with PP Møbler in Denmark and Nikari in Finland, Miyazaki have taken on board modern technology and, again, not to reduce the cost of production but so quality can be improved or where something can be done in their workshop now that was not possible with traditional handcraft techniques.

Niels Sveje explained how they worked with the workshop in Japan. Initial designs were produced with a 3D design package but the next stage was to make a project type and that was then modified in the workshop because "ergonomics is something you have to feel with your body." That produced a chair that was, in effect, a one-off sculpture, and they had to develop their own scanner to take that on to a design that could be put into production. The result is a chair where shape and form and tactile qualities combine with innovative technical details for how the wood is cut to shape and the parts finished and joined together.

Such a meticulous design sequence meant a development period of two years but Niels Sveje justified that in the conclusion of the session when he said that his aim, when designing the chair, was for a piece of furniture that could be in production for at least his own lifetime.

Throughout the discussion there are fascinating observations about design and aesthetics … so all parts of the chair were to be tactile for the person using the chair and sitting in the chair and the sensation was compared with wearing a shirt - specifically in the sense that with a shirt, in direct contact with the body, in the way a chair is in direct contact, you feel all parts - the inside and outside - and surfaces cannot be separated. The design of a chair has to work with 'natural curves' so the lines are, he explained, where you expect them to be.

Daniel Aram added practical but positive comments about shipping costs and delivery times but perhaps the most important point was made by Niels Sveje when he said that the owner of the Japanese workshop was himself a cabinetmaker and was in the workshop every day … and that is different "from when you have an accountant leading the company." He concluded by saying that the design and production of the chair was a mutual achievement so it "couldn't work if you took one of us out of the equation."

DC10 by INODA+SVEJE

MIYAZAKI

DEZEEN on linethe discussion at the Aram Store

 

Shell Chair by Grete Jalk 1963 

chair by Grete Jalk in Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen

 

Skalstole / Shell chairs

Grete Jalk (1920-2005) studied under Kaare Klint and many of her designs are conventional with much of her furniture made by France & Son and by P Jeppesen. The plywood chair, designed in the early 1960s, is unique or almost unique for it is usually paired with side tables of a similar form that came in three sizes and marketed as a nest of tables.

It sounds like a simple concept to design a chair in shaped and folded laminated wood that has just two pieces - one for a slightly curved seat - with the ends bent under and down to support the seat - and the second piece gently curved to form an almost vertical back rest - with the ends tucked around behind and then bent down to the ground - and with the two pieces bolted together. In reality the folds are complex and the plywood shapes look more like something that could only be made from giant sheets of pasta left to dry. 

Because of the complexity of the design originally only 300 were made although the chair is now back in production.

This is perhaps the most imaginative and unusual chair produced during the classic period for modern Danish furniture and shows how materials and techniques of working with wood could be pushed to new limits to create very new types of chair.

 

made originally by P Jeppesen

now made by Lange Production

height: 75cm
width: 63cm
depth: 70cm
height of seat: 33cm

8000 Series Chair by Thygesen and Sørensen 1981

chair in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark

 

Kinesiske stole og dampbøjede stole / Chinese chairs and steambent chairs

 

The 8000 Series Chair by Rud Thygesen (born 1932) and Johnny Sørensen (born 1944) was designed in 1980 for Café Victor in Copenhagen. It is said to be a reworking of the famous bentwood cafe chairs that were produced by Thonet in Austria in the late 19th century but it also looks to the rather different use of wood and rather different developments in wood technology from Finland in the 1930s in the work of Alvar Aalto and his experiments with laminated wood and plywood.

The light, compact chair by Thygesen and Sørensen has a round seat that is formed with an outer ring or frame in wood that is rebated to take circles of plywood in the top and bottom and both are slightly concave or dished and held apart by an internal spacing piece at the centre. Sinking the plywood into a rebate gives the edge of the seat a thin and clean profile.  

There are four legs in wood that are bent at the top to form a knee or elbow and they are housed into the side of the seat. The upper end of the leg is tapered to form a tenon and the housing in the seat is also shaped. An aqueous glue is used to fix the leg in place so the parts swell to make a secure join. The designers patented this system of assembly for fixing the chair together without using screws or dowels. *

The back of the 8000 Chair has a gentle curve - wider than the seat itself - and the centre is flat on the face to provide a more comfortable support for the spine. The top of the vertical supports for the back and the bottom part of the legs are flared or curved slightly outwards to give a more sophisticated profile but also give the chairs more stability.

Light but strong for commercial use, the cafe chairs can be stacked neatly in a tight and vertical stack. One promotion drawing shows the chair with the back hooked over the edge of a table top to lift it up clear of the floor when cleaning the room.

 
 

produced by Magnus Olesen

made in laminated and lacquered beech

height: 70 cm
width: 53 cm
depth: 40 cm
height of seat: 44 cm

 

note:

* In contrast, for Stool 60 - and the chair in the same series by Alvar Aalto - the top of the leg is bent over to form a knee with a short horizontal section and the seat is fixed on top of the legs with screws up through the legs into the seat.

PK 15 Poul Kjærholm 1979

chair in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark

 

Kinesiske stole og dampbøjede stole / Chinese chairs and steambent chairs

 

A chair in compressed beech that has a more traditional bentwood form and is interesting because it echoes and almost mimics the earlier chair in metal tube, the PK 12, that was designed by Kjærholm in 1962.

The basic form of the chair has one long curve forming the back and arms of the chair that is then turned straight down to form the front legs and an inner and lower curve, parallel but much narrower and turning down to the back legs. With less strength in the timber over any length, the PK 15 has two features that were not required in the steel chair … a small link piece at the centre of the back and an inner loop just below the seat and inside the legs to make the frame rigid and to stop the legs spreading outwards when someone sits down or moves in the seat.

In the first bentwood chairs from the Austrian company Thonet in the 19th century the seats were a circle but here the shape of the seat is broader and flatter across the front but not as pronounced as a Reuleaux triangle or even as distinct as the earlier metal chair but I don’t know if these follows a recognised mathematical form such as the super eclipse used by some designers but what is clear is that the success of the design depends on a very very careful graded use of various curves or quadrants in the bending of the chair frame.

The seat is in woven cane … a well-established and popular material in Denmark.

Made originally by Kold Christensen and more recently by PP Møbler.

 
 

ash with cane seat

height: 70 cm
width: 50 cm
depth: 46 cm
height of seat: 44 cm

PK25 by Poul Kjærholm 1951

 

Lave hvilestole / Easy chairs

Poul Kjærholm designed some of the most beautiful and most striking chairs of the modern period of Danish design.

At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker in his home town of Hjørring in Jutland but moved to Copenhagen in 1948 where he continued his training at the Kunsthåndværkerskolen - the School of Arts and Crafts - that was then based at Kunstindustrimuseet - now Designmuseum Danmark. 

It was Hans Wegner who introduced him to the industrial design of Germany and introduced him to to Ejvind Kold Christensen, who was then establishing a company that would go on to manufacture pieces by both Wegner and then Kjærholm. 

The younger designer moved across almost completely to using industrial materials rather than wood for the frames of his chairs although he used natural materials for upholstery, particularly leather, with amazing and almost stark effects that emphasised the clean and precise lines of the furniture. His designs moved rapidly away from the styles and forms of the work of traditional cabinetmaker and close to the precision and the techniques of engineering.

The PK25 was made from a single sheet of steel that was cut and then shaped in a hydraulic press, and given a matt chrome finish and with a single length of halyard or sailing rope wrapped around the metal frame to form the seat and back.

photographed at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen

 

 designed by Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980)
designed in 1951 (as a graduate project)

manufactured by Fritz Hansen Eftf 1952-1956
manufactured by E Kold Christensen from 1956
manufactured by Fritz Hansen Eftf from 1982

materials: steel and halyard

height: 75 cm
depth: 73 cm
width: 69 cm
seat height: 40 cm

Designmuseum Danmark catalogue

 

when we get to the future

In 1927, the architects Arne Jacobsen and Flemming Lassen - exact contemporaries and old school friends - won a competition to design a House of the Future which two years later was constructed for the Housing and Building Exhibition at the Forum in Copenhagen. 

The exhibition hall itself was then a new building that had been completed in 1926 with the design by the architect Oscar Gundlach-Pedersen. He was sixteen or seventeen years older than Jacobsen and Lassen but, although he had trained at the time when national romantic architecture was fashionable and his first works were in that general style, he was interested in new materials and new building techniques and as early as 1922 published an article where he talked about buildings that use these new materials “that are not encumbered with tradition.”

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Mindcraft16 ... Sølvgade Chair by Cecilie Manz

The Sølvgade Chair by Cecilie Manz - when seen alongside the other works in the Mindcraft16 exhibition - appears to be the most conventional piece because it is restrained, rather self-contained and certainly does not draw attention to itself. In contrast, many of the other pieces are deliberately flamboyant and deliberately controversial to push conventions and to challenge the visitor. 

However, the design of the chair goes in the other direction by taking the design of a chair back to basic principles it raises interesting and important questions about how designers and manufacturers should approach the production of a new chair. Why is that important? Well, a chair is perhaps the staple piece of furniture and usually has a major place or even an iconic place in the catalogues of the major Danish design companies. New chairs are launched at regular intervals and old designs are revived as a matter of pride in a well-known back catalogue. Most design buffs can reel off a list of classic chairs but would find it more difficult to name more than a couple of classic table designs or a couple of sofas.

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design classic: Bankers Clock by Arne Jacobsen

L1160634.jpg

Bankers Clock in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark

 

Designed in 1970 for for the National Bank of Denmark in Copenhagen and still in production - sold by Rosendahl. The hour marks around the face have a line of twelve small squares along the radial with the square nearest to the centre blacked out for number one, the second square blacked out for two and so on round to twelve at the top with just the outer square blacked out. The effect creates a fascinating spiral outwards through the twelve hours. Compared with the minimalism of the City Hall Clock, designed by Jacobsen in 1955, these little squares seem quirky or even superfluous, but then the intermediate marks for the minutes on the earlier clock face are not strictly necessary … minimal design is not necessarily about stripping back to the starkest and most basic point but about when you stop in that process of reduction.

Karina Noyons

 

Back in August, at the Kunsthåndværker Markedet - the craft market on Frue Plads in Copenhagen - one stall that immediately caught my attention was the work of the jewellery designer and goldsmith Karina Noyons. 

Her work is striking - simple but very clever and inventive - playing with strong geometric shapes but twisting them around so rings or bracelets are held out from the body. So for instance, by putting a square outside an inner circle of a ring. Here clearly is a designer's and a goldsmith’s skill that, to repeat something discussed regularly on this site, develops from experience and from working directly with a material, to understand what will and what will not achieve a desired result. What this jewellery also illustrates so well is that the simpler the piece then, as here, the more perfect the workmanship has to be … minimalism shows up any flaw and to misappropriate a much used phrase … less means more skill.

But above all, what I could see in the jewellery, is a fantastic and clearly justifiable self confidence that's combined with a really good sense of humour. That was obvious in the clever display that used illustrations by Rasmus Bregnhøi as a background for the jewellery with suggestions about how the more unusual or less conventional pieces could be worn.

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Karina Noyons

Rasmus Bregnhøi