This year marked 100 years since the birth of the famous furniture designer Hans Jørgensen Wegner, a designer that we kind of have a soft spot for since his career circled around chairs. In fact, he created more than 500 chair models and some of them you will probably recognize with ease in other designers’ creations, because they became genuine references in the field.
He had a true passion for wood and some say about him that he was first of all a master of carpentry and only after that a designer. But his love of wood was so strong since it was molded in his early years, while he was working as an apprentice in a cabinet maker’s shop. After that he attended the classes of the Danish School of Arts and Crafts and the Architectural Academy in Copenhagen. But Copenhagen was nothing more than the perfect opportunity to find the passion that would guide his whole life – furniture design, so in 1936 he started classes at the Danish School of Design. Of course, brilliant minds find ways of finding each other, so it’s no wonder he started working for Arne Jacobsen in 1938 and it’s not by chance that they are both considered to be key people in the modernist school of Organic Functionality.
Wegner stayed with Jacobsen until 1942 and in 1943 he opened his own practice. One year after that he came up with the first chair that would make it to the design history books – a rocking chair that might still be the standard today (at least in the perception of the Danish people) – J 16, a symbol of ergonomics and the freedom of movement. 1944 was also the year of the Chinese Chair no. 1, inspired by Ming chairs.
Then came: the Peacock (1947 – inspired by the traditional Windsor chair, but with adaptations that clearly remind people of the fancy bird), ”The Chair”/”The Round One” (1949 – probably his most remarkable creation that perfectly pictures his principles of his design and the essence of the Danish art of wood), Folding Chair (1949 – inspired by the Barcelona Chair of Mies van der Rohe, still simple and elegant, but made of wood and cane and specially designed to be hung on a wall once it’s folded), Wishbone (1949 – last of the series open by the Chinese Chair), Flag Halyard (1950 – one of his few models with no wood in it, but with a lovely story – the design was inspired by a day at the beach and the first sketch was actually made on sand, Valet (1952 – practical and playful, emerged from an authentic need and built as a chair that serves both as hangers and a storage box), Ox (1960 – sophisticated, but also playful, this model is said to be Wegner’s favorite of all-time), Shell (1963 – futuristic, with curved lines and three legs) etc.
In the end, we’ll only tell you one more thing – from the 500+ of Wegner’s chair designs, about 100 made it to mass production and that is truly the mark of a brilliant designer.