Pelican Chair -

Denmark has long been in the forefront of furniture design in the 20th Century producing attractive pieces distinguished by fine craftsmanship. Danish innovations with the chair, in particular, symbolise a fine harmony between function, comfort and style. Even today, more than half a century later, a number of iconic designs are being reproduced. The following is a reflection of the cross sectional development of the modern Danish chair design through a selection of such masterpieces.

By Shenuka Dias

Designed by Kaare Klint in 1933, the Safari Chair is a light portable armchair, which was inspired by the colonial chair used by the English officers in India. This is one of the first chairs with knockdown construction, designed for portability. The analytical design approach was based on functionality, proportions in line with the human body, craftsmanship and the use of high quality materials. Adopting the functionalist trend of abandoning ornamentation in favour of form, the Safari Chair nonetheless maintains the warmth and beauty inherent in traditional Danish cabinet making as well as high-quality craftsmanship and materials.

Based on Klint’s Safari Chair, the folding chair was conceived, using simple folding principles by Mogens Koch and is now considered one of the most important folding chairs in Danish design. However, initially its unconventional design was considered too radical to produce, and as such production was started only in 1960.

The Pelican Chair, designed by Finn Juhl in 1940, takes the Danish chair to a whole new dimension, characterised by new expressions of form and ideas. The chair named for its resemblance to the shape of a pelican with outspread wings has a unique feeling of sculptured beauty, which fuses sculpture and furniture design together.

More emphasis is placed on form and less on function while maintaining an overall balance.

The Chieftain Chair, also known as the Egyptian Chair, is the masterpiece of Finn Juhl’s chair designs. Designed in 1949, the name is derived from its construction, which is based on an old Egyptian Chair. More emphasis is placed on form and less on function while maintaining an overall balance. Its unique form, which separate the sculpturally shaped seat and back from the wooden frame is emphasised with elegantly shaped armrests.

Of the many works designed by Hans J Wegner, the Chair No. 501 designed in 1949, is arguably the most important. The way the arm, and back rail is gathered, as fingers woven into each other; is a challenge to a skilled cabinet maker. The superiority of its design is due to the perfection of form with refined play of lines, simple lean form, absolute lack of excess, comfort, fine detailing and the perfect choice of materials.

Designed in 1950, the Y-Chair is the best selling of Wegner’s chairs to date. Today this chair is very popular in the Oriental region, perhaps for its inspiration of the Chinese classical style. Its name is based on the form of the back of the chair.

Created for use in the dining room of the Novo Pharmaceutical Company by Arne Jacobsen in 1951, the “Ant Chair” takes its name due to its shape, which resembles an ant. The design, however, was not popular and was criticized for having only three legs and no arms. Considered revolutionary in 1952 due to shell design with back and seat made out of one piece of laminated wood, the chair today, is available both with three and four legs in a wide range of colours.

Out of the many swivel chairs with casters designed by Wegner, the Swivel Chair No. 502 designed in 1955 is the most attractive.

Its distinctive features are its top rail design showing organic form and the strong finger joints between the top rail and arms.

The T Chair designed by Ole Wanscher in 1957 is an innovative adoption of beautiful lines and forms of the Chinese classical style. He was one of the first designers to create works for mass production, which were not only for the elite, focusing on functionality and convenience.

The Swan Chair named for its highly sculptured form, which resembles a swan spreading its wings, is a masterpiece by Arne Jacobsen created in 1958. It was the result of Jacobsen’s search for a curved fluid form, which required minimum padding and was lightweight without losing the comfort. The seat, backrest and arms are formed of a single piece of moulded polyurethane with fiberglass reinforcement. The shell has an adjustable tilt, which can be adjusted to the weight of the individual user. The base consists of a satin-polished, welded steel tube and a four-star base in aluminium. Due to its unique shape, the Swan Chair guarantees a bit of privacy in otherwise public spaces.

The Spanish Chair designed by Borge Mogensen in 1959 has a back and seat that is fastened by thick leather straps, a design popular in old Spanish chairs. The overall impression of this chair is forceful, yet it also has excellent details. Mogensen’s works are characterised by a strong, simple presence, beautiful lines, and a high level of comfort.

The Panton Chair or Stacking Chair designed in 1960 made Verner Panton’s name famous. This is the world’s first form-moulded chair in plastic without any joints.The Panton chair, a one-piece cantilevered design made in bright colours, has been in production continuously since 1967, and its sinuous shape became synonymous with 1960’s pop culture.

The reason for these chairs to reach global recognition is…because they fulfill basic human requirements.

The design of the Laminated Chair in 1963, established Grete Jalk as a renowned designer. This excellent laminated design was intended for mass production, but was considered too radical for production at the time. The expressive sculptural form of the chair, composed of two similarly shaped pieces of moulded plywood, marks a highlight in the engagement with this material.

The reason for these chairs to reach global recognition is not merely due to the assistance given by the Danish government and royal family, but because they fulfill basic human requirements. The combination of an interesting form and design, together with a sound knowledge of traditional woodworking and contemporary engineering methods, financial viability, skilled craftsmen, and the unparalleled creativity of its designers, and the recognition of consumer needs and desires have resulted in the continued excellence of these Danish chairs.