the 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.

read more

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 Greta Jalk 1963 

chair by Greta Jalk in Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen

 

Skalstole / Shell chairs

Greta 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.

 
 

height: 70cm

width: 53cm

depth: 40cm

height of seat: 44cm

made in laminated and lacquered beech

produced by Magnus Olesen

 

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.

 
 

height: 70cm

width: 50cm

depth: 46cm

height of seat: 44cm

ash with cane seat

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

 

 

designer: Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980)

designed in 1951 (as a graduate project)

materials: steel and halyard

height: 75cm

depth: 73cm

width: 69cm

seat height: 40cm

manufactured by Fritz Hansen Eftf 1952-1956

manufactured by E Kold Christensen from 1956

manufactured by Fritz Hansen Eftf from 1982

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.”

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

Karina Noyons

Rasmus Bregnhøi

 

Roon & Rahn

 

Nicki van Roon and René Hansen are based in Aarhus and their designs were produced to solve a specific problem … they couldn’t find what they really wanted for their own apartment.

In fact, that seems to have become a key feature of their work … it’s problem led or do I mean solution driven? That’s a good starting point for any design … identify a problem - don’t just accept that something is and should be like that because it has always been like that and try to come at a problem from a different direction, a different viewpoint, to find a different solution.

Roon & Rahn also have a strong interest in graphics and they exploit engineering for the precision they want in manufacturing their designs.

 

 

Pieces in production include a bench and a round stool with three legs in wood; a rack for storing shoes; lighting and a wall hanging system called Moodboard and in development there is a very clever spice rack.

That might not sound like an extensive catalogue but Roon & Rahn are a young company and they are sensibly taking their time to add the right new designs. Moodboard took a year to develop, to come up with exactly what they wanted - the right design - and that is obvious in the quality of the finished product and in the clever way their system works. In fact, I liked the design so much that later in the Autumn, after seeing their work first at Northmodern, I tracked them down at Designer Space in Copenhagen to buy a Moodboard for my new apartment and then ended up buying a couple of their lights as well.

 

 

The pendant lights are interesting. They are simple with a large globe bulb hanging from a cable that runs through a brass stem but turned wood that drops over the bulb holder was made from timber salvaged from old recycled furniture. They use twisted flex in a natural linen colour that was chosen to give the lights a less clinical, less hard and less technical quality, as, over time, the brass will gain a patina.

R&R have a keen interest in the materials they use - the brass stems for the lights are made by them and we talked for quite a long time about sourcing good timber and about fuming or smoking oak. Again this is not about just designing at a drawing board but about working with materials and trying out ideas in the workshop to discover what a material can do or might do. The clear perspex used for the Moodboard is another good example because they had to experiment and had to work out how they could use laser cutting to get the precision and finish that they wanted. 

From talking to Nicki and René, it was clear that in Aarhus there are local craftsmen, workshops and designers who together provide a mutual support group … so if they don’t know exactly how to do something then they know someone who does. 

Packaging for their products is good. They use simple unbleached cardboard but again that disguises just how carefully thought out and stylish it all is … pictograms they designed for instructions for mounting the Moodboard on the wall are particularly good. These graphics are actually a step up from a pictogram but are still simple illustrations and are used instead of detailed written instructions … important when aiming for an international market. That same preference for good clear but sophisticated graphics can be seen in the design of their printed catalogue as well as the layout for their web site. 

 

 

In the catalogue they use white lettering on a warm grey background … all simple but stylish and all very carefully thought through, as you would expect. A non-standard ampersand and their logo with interlocked Rs is interesting, one R inverted, so together they look like a bolt or screw head. 

Roon & Rahn show yet again just why Danish design is so strong and why so many young designers and new companies are so successful … it’s not just about drive and ambition … they certainly have that … but about imaginative new solutions to old problems, with a clear sense of style, high standards for manufacturing with good, high-quality materials and the understanding that every detail really does matter.

 

ROON & RAHN

Moodboard by Roon & Rahn

 

The basic idea of the Moodboard is simple … a plain wood board that is mounted on the wall and has a series of holes in either a single line or in two parallel lines and with several different styles of wooden peg that can be arranged, as the buyer wants, to store and to display things like keys or glasses but the pegs are more than strong enough to take coats and even much heavier things … Nikki van Roon told me that he has a guitar and a snowboard hanging from Moodboards. 

There are different types of wooden peg of different lengths and a very neat key holder. With a choice of oiled oak or smoked oak for the board itself and, with the same options of light or smoked wood for the pegs, it means quite a few possible permutations, to give the buyer an interesting number of options.

More and more designers are trying to develop and extend options for customers to personalise what they buy. We discussed this at Northmodern and agreed that it’s difficult to get the balance right. Along with trying to give some of the background story for a company or for a product, personalisation can give the customer what is now, I think, called emotional ownership - an odd phrase that must have been thought up by a marketing man rather than a designer - but the idea itself is fine. However, it is necessary to limit options in order to manage expectations and prevent people from selecting a combination that does not work well or putting together a combination which they tire of quickly which obviously they would blame on the designer… that’s the down side of ‘consumer choice’ … the customer rarely chooses to accept the blame. And of course too many options can create problems for manufacturing and with packaging.

There is an engineered character to the design. Not just in the quality of finish but also the clean precision of the laser-cut Perspex and the fixing bolts are matt black, tightened with an allen key, and they project forward of the board to hold the perspex and it is that gap that supports the pegs and in a very simple way stops them from dropping out or being pulled downwards by the weight of whatever is hung from the peg.  

A bold chamfer undercutting the edge of the board itself makes it look thinner but also has the effect of making the board appear to stand slightly forward of the wall because of a line of shadow. Very clever.

Finally, perhaps the most important feature … a metal back plate to the board and small strong magnets in each peg hold them firmly in place and if you swap them around they are almost sucked back into their sockets in a very satisfying way and with a nice clunk sound as well. What’s not to like?

ROON & RAHN

 

Ole Palsby Design

 

Ole Palsby Design was at northmodern at the Bella Centre in August where they showed their ICHI range of cutlery and the recently-released thermos jug that is now being produced by the Coop in Denmark.

Mikkel Palsby, the son of Ole Palsby, also showed several historic pieces including the clear glass carafe that was designed for Georg Jensen.

Towards the end of one of the days, there was an opportunity to ask Mikkel a few questions about the way that his father worked when major designs were commissioned. In an earlier post on this site there are comments on the Eva Trio range of kitchenware and it was clear that Ole Palsby established a strong relationship with the manufacturer but Mikkel explained that what was crucial was work with production teams in the factory workshops who, working with his father, made the initial trial pieces. These were tested extensively, both at the factory and at home in the Palsby kitchen, to ensure that they functioned properly, making sure that each piece felt absolutely right in the hand, for weight, for balance or grip, and to be certain that the quality of the material was of the standard that Ole Palsby knew was necessary.

Mikkel Palsby has established a similar and close working relationship with the family of Kazonsuke Ohizumi, who own the workshops in Niigata in Japan where ICHI is made ... crucial in order to realise the designs for ICHI and to complete important final details that had not been resolved for the complete range of different pieces before Ole Palsby died in 2010.

With the new cutlery range this has been crucial because several of the pieces try new shapes or modified and clearly less-conventional shapes because Ole Palsby rarely accepted that something should be like that simply because it had always been like that. Obvious examples of this rethinking are the shape and angle of the bowls of soup spoons; the flexible but also sharp blades of knives for spreading and the longer centre tines of forks so they stick into and hold food before the main part of the fork breaks it open.

It was interesting to hear that changes might even be made to a design for technical reasons after an item had gone into full production so, clearly, Ole Palsby monitored his own work even after he had moved on to another project. For instance, Mikkel could remember one kettle where the base plate had not performed as well as expected and several months after the kettle was available, a revised version was designed where the thickness and composition of the bottom was changed to improve the transmission of even heat … a crucial feature for all cooking pans … and on another occasion one manufacturer had reduced the thickness of the metal used for a range of pans, some time after the launch, and Ole Palsby had insisted that the manufacturer went back to using the original gauge of steel. 

It seems astounding that he could keep such a tight control over the quality of the pieces coming off the factory production line but then Mikkel explained that when a design was completed, and after any modifications completed and agreed but before the piece went into production, one sample was sealed into a box that was then signed by both Ole Palsby and the factory. The contract stated that in the event of a dispute about changes, made subsequently by the factory, then the box would be opened for a direct comparison and the manufacturer was obliged, under the terms of the contract to revert to the agreed specification. Mikkel Palsby could not actually recall many disputes over ongoing production quality as presumably both Ole Palsby and the factory knew exactly what was in the box.

As a prolific designer, continually trying out new ideas, there are projects, drawings and trial pieces in the family archive that were not, for various reasons, produced commercially before Ole Palsby died and the long-term aim of the company is to go into partnership with appropriate manufacturers to see these realised and it is hoped that several designs that were popular in the 1970s or 80s will also go back into production.

Else-Rikke Bruun at northmodern

It has been quite difficult to write about these complex and sophisticated pieces. For a start they are stunningly beautiful. Of course that shouldn't make it difficult to describe them or talk about this furniture but then the superlatives start to stack up and begin to slide into hyperbole and loose their impact.

Also the pieces occupy an interesting middle ground: this is furniture - or at least they are pieces designed to furnish a room, which is slightly different - but in some ways they are closer to being sculpture than most furniture because they explore so carefully ideas about volume and space and explore the role of light and shadow in defining both.

Harlekin in birch

Veneer in birch

A strong feature of the screens is their texture although it may seem slightly odd to describe something on this relatively large scale as texture. As well as through touch, of course, texture is usually revealed by light playing across a surface to highlight changes on the surface that show that it is not smooth - so the texture of rough concrete or, and more appropriate here, the texture of a woven fabric or the texture of the surface of a woven rush mat or of a basket.

Nor are conventional definitions of style particularly appropriate here. The screens are minimalist in that they have a relatively simple repeat pattern and are made in a material with a uniform tone and colour and there is no added decoration - any pattern is formed by the technique of construction and not applied - but rather than being minimal - which often now just implies simple or basic - these pieces are better described as being restrained or sober and controlled.

Certainly the gentle curves of the chairs, when seen in profile, are complex but there is a purity of line and that is what, in part, makes them so beautiful … and that is said with no apology for slipping into hyperbole.

Nor do the pieces really conform to a strict sense of period or location because although they are, in some ways, typically Scandinavian - pale wood and high-quality construction for a start - they can also be seen to relate to Japanese and Chinese techniques of carpentry where separate elements are held together by intersecting and locking the parts into place rather than being fixed together by using carpenters' joints or screws or glue.

Nor are these forms and shapes specifically related to timber, in its most natural form, because Else-Rikke Bruun exploits, in a very sophisticated way, the intrinsic qualities of the plywood that she uses and plywood is manufactured rather than being timber that has simply been felled and then sawn and planed smooth. But also the screens are reminiscent of origami and could be made in paper or card although, of course, then they would be of a different scale.

These pieces show Else-Rikke Bruun exploring and testing, in different ways, both a material and the different technique or ways of working with that material … here the shaping and bending of plywood so that it retains a complex shape. Plywood can be bent and then held under tension, as in the screens, or, with the construction of the chair, sheets of plywood can be shaped with heat and pressure so at normal temperatures the separate sections are flexible but retain the shape of the curve of a former or mould.

The screens and the chair are important because they illustrate another aspect of the design process. It is fascinating to see the work of a designer who knows instinctively that they have reached a point with a design when it is absolutely right. Many designers would have to think carefully before being able to explain to someone why one part of their design is not longer or not a sharper curve or a thicker dimension but by instinct and through experience they know or they feel when something is absolutely right for what they are trying to achieve. And that really is difficult to explain.

 

Veneer was shown at the Biennalen exhibition of Kunsthåndværk og Design - the Danish Craftwork and Design Association - at Carlsberg Byen in Copenhagen in August 2015

Else-Rikke Bruun

Bended by Else-Rikke Bruun

 

This chair was inspired by Arabic lettering and, when seen in profile, the curves of the separate parts certainly have the fluidity of ink lines drawn with a pen or a fine brush as in calligraphy.

It is formed from flat, two-dimensional, sheets of plywood that have been cut to shape and bent and moulded to follow complex curves but what is also important, particularly for the view from the side, are spacing and joining pieces that keep each of the four main parts of the chair separate so that they appear to run parallel for sections but then curve away without actually seeming to touch.

Back, seat, front support and the back support together form an elongated X in section when the chair is seen from the side but it is an X where there are not just two main lines simply intersecting but four curved parts that slide together with different amounts of overlap and changes of angle.

There is a strong contrast between the view of the chair from the front or back - which shows something very solid - because the elements are bold unbroken shapes - and the view from the side where the chair is thin, linear and very elegant. The proportions of the parts and balance or relationship between them is crucial and there is a dynamic between the lines and the solid planes in any view from an angle.

Else-Rikke Bruun

 


 

In terms of the broad history of chair design the structural form of Bended is fascinating.

Roman and medieval stools used either an x-shaped frame or intersecting and crossing pieces but generally the X shape was seen from the front, not the side, and the person using the chair was either sitting between the arms of the X or on a seat that rested across the top of the X. 

Some designers in the early modern period, such as Gerrit Rietveld, used flat sheets of plywood to form the seat and back of a chair and in the 1930s Alvar Aalto designed chairs with shaped seats or backs in plywood but this was only bent in one plane, basically forming a scroll, and these plywood seats were invariably supported on bentwood frames.

All these designs look inelegant when compared with the chair designed by Else-Rikke Bruun.

 

 Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) 

Red and Blue Chair 1917

 

Plywood is an industrial or manufactured product that was first made in the early 19th century and was seen as primarily utilitarian. It has layers of thin sheets of wood that are cut by turning a tree trunk against a long thin blade and often smaller or poor-quality tree trunks are used. These slices are glued together with a number of layers to form sheets of varying thickness. Plywood is strong, relatively light and relatively inexpensive so it can be used for boat building, covering industrial buildings, such as sheds or factories or farm buildings, or used for the backs of furniture such as wardrobes or over frames it is strong enough for the sides and fronts of cupboards - particularly for what was sometimes called utility furniture in the middle of the last century.

In the second half of the 20th century, several designers in Denmark produced chairs with a seat and back in plywood that had been curved or moulded into relatively complicated three-dimensional seats, perhaps most notably Arne Jacobsen, but generally these plywood shells were supported on a separate frame of wood or metal.

folding chair by Kaare Klint 1933

Chair PK25 by Poul Kjærholm 1951

 

The BENDED chair is low and in its form and in the position of the sitter it is reminiscent of two very distinct designs from the middle of the 20th century ... the deck chair by Kaare Klint from 1933 and the metal-framed chair PK25 by Poul Kjærholm designed in 1951 or his slightly later PK22 from 1955.

Several designers have, however, explored the possibilities of using plywood for the whole chair, both the seat and back and the support, and have moulded plywood into far more complicated shapes to create more complex pieces of furniture. 

Sori Yanagi (1915-2011) -  Butterfly Stool 1954. Deceptively simple with two very complex pieces that mirror each other.

Greta Jalke (1920-2006) chair in plywood from 1963. There are two main parts to the chair that are bent to particularly complex shapes - almost like strudel pastry or pasta.

Nanna Ditzel (1923-2005) a prototype chair in Oregon pine from 1962 for Poul Christiansen. The seat is a separate piece, supported by a cross piece between the front legs and housed into the back strut with a line of square mortise-and-tenon joints.