By the 1950s Danish architect Arne Jacobsen had already designed family homes and apartments, public buildings and recreation centres, laboratories and factories. He had undertaken one of his biggest projects yet, the design of the SAS House hotel and airline terminal for Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) in Copenhagen for which he would design his much sort after and copied chairs such as the Egg, Swan and Syveren (Seven) series.
Through the SAS House Jacobsen continued the Scandinavian tradition of designing custom furnishings for his large-scale buildings, continually developing new designs for lighting, textiles and seating. Throughout his career, he had always sought to create type-forms, elementary objects that could be adapted to a variety of locations. The Visor lamps (below) and the Seven series of chairs for the SAS House are two of the most notable.
Jacobsen constructed his first chair in 1925 while he was a student in architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and exhibited it the same year at the landmark Exposition des Art Décoratifs in Paris, where it was awarded a silver medal and provided Jacobsen with his first public recognition. What followed was a thirty-year-long exploration into the essential form of the chair.
Before World War II, Jacobsen had worked with woodworkers and upholsters to produce variations on traditional types of seating but after 1950, craft was supplanted by technology when new industrial processes of bending and laminating materials contributed to the creation of radically new forms. The first was the Myren (Ant) chair, a stacking chair of laminated wood that had been developed for the lunch room of a pharmaceutical factory in 1951, however its design didn't accommodate the ability to have armrests.
The Seven series chair, and the Ant chair which preceded it originated from Jacobsen's experimentations with wood laminate for his Swan chair, which eventually came to be moulded from styropore foam. The curves of the Swan chair's armrests exceeded the laminated wood's structural capabilities. With the Seven, armrests were extended from the legs of the chair and made from the same bent steel tubing which had by then become the hallmark of modern design, especially through the work of Marcel Breuer.
The Seven chair was equally useful with or without arms and could also be combined with a variety of supports, including a swivel base with wheels for offices and a fixed pedestal for lecture halls. All the wood elements of a chair would be combined into a single form, and the metal elements would be reduced to their minimum dimensions.
Jacobsen was not a theorist and he never articulated a universal language of form as his design contemporaries did such as Dieter Rams and his principles of good design. Instead, he worked in an intuitive manner, approaching each project, regardless of scale or material, as an opportunity to fuse his refined aesthetic with a specific function and new methods of construction as with the Seven series chair.
The Seven series chair has proved to be a durable a design as its construction - it is still in production over 50 years later in its original colours and wood veneers by Danish producer Fritz Hansen.
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