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

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

 

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

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

 

the colours of Thorvaldsens Museum

 

The sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and then,  in 1797, travelled to Rome where he established a successful studio.

When he returned home to Copenhagen in 1838, he was was welcomed as a hero.

He donated his collection to the nation, on the condition that a specific and dedicated building should be constructed to house his sculptures and his studies, and a site adjoining the royal palace, the Royal Coach House, was granted by the king. A new building was commissioned that was designed by Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll (1800-1856).

Completed by 1848, it was the first art museum in Denmark.

 

Frescoes around the exterior depict the triumphal arrival of Thorvaldsen in the city with his sculptures carried in triumph from the ship and watched by local people.

The painter was Jørgen Sonnes (1801-1890) but his colours were lime based but over a cement mortar and changed over time so had to be repaired in the 1860s and then recreated by the renowned Danish painter and ceramic designer Axel Salto in 1951.

The colour scheme is a combination of rich, deep-ochre tones with the background in a blue/grey base with figures in outline and fabric of costumes picked out in a limited range of colours with solid ochre, iron red and stone which gives the frieze a strong unity.

Colours of the interior of the building are richer and darker, based in part on studies of classical Pompeian art, with strong solid wall colours as a foil to the marble statues and plaster casts.

Documents survive to show that, from the start, the architect considered the role and the control of natural light in the galleries as crucial … in part, it is said, to copy the form of controlled lighting in Thorvaldsen's studio in Rome. Light was to fall from above with the brightest light on the heads of the statues with a more suffused light across the floor. On the upper floor is what was called "the sunshine corridor" where natural light was reflected to illuminate the works. Etched glass was used in the large windows on the ground-floor that look into the courtyard and this modifies the natural light in these inward-looking spaces. 

The colour scheme of the large courtyard is different from the exterior and has strong, deep, slate green and a dull blue that are used to emphasise architectural features. This is not just a museum but was conceived as a mausoleum and the grave of Thorvaldsen is at the centre of the courtyard so plants etched in the window glass and palms in the design of the frescoes are an allusion to the Garden of Paradise.

When completed, the whole composition must have seemed astounding to citizens, at a time when the city had been dominated for half a century by subtle and subdued classical taste, with most new buildings painted in tones of cream, grey and stone. Here, at Thorvaldsens Museum, was a return to the strong colours of 17th-century Danish buildings and interiors and the building marks a key point in the development of Danish historicism with a new interest in the idea of a national style based on historical precedence. 

Thorvaldsens Museum