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Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #2

Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #2

Fritz Hansen, also known as Republic of Fritz Hansen is a Danish furniture design company which was established in 1872 by the visionary cabinetmaker of the same name. Since then, Fritz Hansen has become a part of both Danish and international design history. In the early 20th century Christian E. Hansen, son of Fritz Hansen, started to experiment with steam bending beech, in the 30’s, the technique is so refined that Fritz Hansen is among the world leaders in the field, which later evolves into the firm’s expertise: furniture created in laminate wood. Fritz Hansen also launched the first Danish steel furniture.

Hansen´s first classic of the 1940’s is the China#x2122; Chair, designed by the progressive architect Hans. J. Wegner. Wegner#8217;s China Chair was in production only a few years in the mid 40´s; it was not until its reintroduction in 1963 that the chair occupied a leading position among Fritz Hansen#8217;s classics. This chair stands out as the only solid wood chair in the Fritz Hansen collection. Wegner designed furniture for PP Møbler, Johannes Hansen, Carl Hansen Son, Fritz Hansen, Getama, Fredericia Stolefabrik and others, which are still produced under license today in Denmark. With more than 500 different chair designs Wegner is the most prolific Danish designer to date.

In the 1950’s Arne Jacobsen dominates Fritz Hansen´s production. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that built up on its craft-based design heritage. Even though the collaboration between Jacobsen and Hansen started in 1934, the breakthrough comes when Arne creates the laminated Ant#x2122; Chair in 1952. Originally, the Ant Chair was close to end up as just another prototype, because Fritz Hansen wasn’t convinced of the chair’s potential. The chair survived initial skepticism, when Arne guaranteed to buy all Ant chairs produced, if no one else would. The Ant Chair later gave rise to the success story of the Series 7#x2122; Chair designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955 with more than 5 Million chairs sold worldwide, by far the record sales chair in the history of Fritz Hansen. The introduction of the lamination technique and separable furniture impelled Arne Jacobsen´s and Fritz Hansen#8217;s names into 20th century furniture history.

At the end of the 1950´s Arne Jacobsen designed the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and for that project he designed the Egg#x2122; and the Swan#x2122; Chairs, the Swan#x2122; Sofa and Series 3300#x2122;. The two designer chairs originated in Jacobsen’s home garage and have been in production at Fritz Hansen ever since. In 1958 the Swan was a technologically innovative chair: no straight lines #8211; only curves, a moulded shell of synthetic material on an aluminum star swivel base with a layer of cold foam covering the shell upholstered in fabric or leather.

Leading architects and furniture designers from all over the world have regularly contributed to Fritz Hansen´s furniture production. The stellar string of designers is long and the furniture of classic and iconic fame is even longer. Works of designers such as Poul Kjaerholm, Arne Jacobsen, Cecilie Manz, Hiromichi Konno, Piero Lissoni, Morten Voss, Bruno Mathsson, Todd Bracher, Hans J. Wegner, Hans S. Jacobsen, Kasper Salto, Pelikan Design, Jehs + Laub and Piet Hein are part of Hansen´s collection.

Congratulations! If this time your precious inheritance is a Series 7 chair you can be proud of the good taste and love for Danish design of your relative, but also you can think that your chair is “almost” a limited edition of 5 Million compared to the current 60 Million „Vienna coffee house chair“ model produced by Thonet. In the case of some other designs like the Swan Chair or the Egg Chair you can call it “rare” or scarce with only a few hundred thousand produced. To give you an idea, if you concentrate all the Series 7 chairs in New York City, only 25% of the population would own one. That´s what I call exclusivity!

As long as we are reviewing these furniture giants, we can only think that the talent and enormous capacity of 20th century designers is amazing, to mention only one remarkable Danish prodigy Mr. Hans J. Wegner, with more than 500 chair designs alone, but also I would like to say that I feel compelled to make some questions about the use of these new materials like laminate wood, cold foam, fiberglass, aluminum, tubular steel, etc. if they really have an intrinsic value that could push the prices to five figures for a brand new Swan Sofa or if it is only a matter of a lack of knowledge and information of the customer that still believes in the cliché of exclusivity, high end product, making a design statement, etc.

#8230;to be continued in part # 3

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