‘The Round Chair’

Continuing into February, I wanted to touch on something that I mentioned in my first—the first widespread exposure to Danish design in the United States, during the first televised presidential debate between JFK and Nixon.

For those of you who are familiar with Scandinavian design, you would have heard of ‘The Chair’. For those that aren’t, this piece of furniture designed by Hans J Wegner, was one of his nearly 500 chairs to have been designed across his lifetime. He was one of Denmark’s most prolific furniture designers, and is part of the generation that is now referred to as the Golden Age of classic Danish design.

The first edition of The Chair had a woven seat made of cane

The first instance of The Chair appearing physically in the United States was within the MOMA organised, Good Design Exhibition in 1952. It was then famously used for the very first televised presidential debate between JFK and Nixon and it was here that The Chair found its celebrity worldwide.

In 2009, during the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, The Chair was used for televised talks between world leaders. Leaping into world prominence once again Barack Obama is pictured sitting in the chair chatting to other leaders such as Dmitry Medvediev of Russia and Wen Jiabao of China.

‘The Chair’, ‘The Round One’ or the catalogued JH503 (originally JH501 with a cane back and seat) is a chair that epitomises what Danish style set out to achieve. Wegner commented once, “Many foreigners have asked me how we created the Danish style. I’ve answered that it was a continuous process of purification and simplification –to cut down to the simplest possible design of four legs, a seat, and a combined back-and armrest.”

Designer of The Chair, Hans J Wegner

The chair exudes the Danish theory of form follows function. Unfussy, uncomplicated and functional, without embellishment or unnecessary decoration. Characterised by Its smooth lines and expert craftsmanship, the construction is complex, while appearing effortless. The joins between the chair’s parts are created using specific techniques which are visible –displaying an honest approach to design that was important to the Golden Age designers. The gently curved back rest, in particular, is attached to the contoured arms using a strong finger style join with zig-zagged cuts, a feature of the design.

It is certainly a firm favourite of mine from the masters of Danish design. It’s timeless, elegant and refined –everything you want from a Scandinavian design classic.