Scandinavian seating the stars of the show
An ongoing exhibition at the China Design Museum shows around 150 chairs made in Scandinavia, reflecting the concept and romance of Nordic design in the 20th century.
These Northern European chairs show the essence of the development of modernism and functionalism decades ago. Designers integrated humanity with naturalism, showcasing their life attitudes through the furniture.
The first piece came from Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, who used birch plywood to create the Paimio Chair for a sanatorium in the 1930s.
He invented a method to bend plywood by hot-pressing it and applied his method to designing furniture, which featured lightweight, easy-to-clean and sanitary properties.
The elegant structure of the Paimio Chair is made of one piece of curved plywood with two rims scrolling inward. The curvy lines present a graceful and elastic look, and increase comfort for the user. Three slits engraved on the back symbolize ventilating outlets, which display the designer’s humanistic care for the tuberculosis patients in the sanitorium.
The Paimio Chair was an unquestionably classic design by virtue of its smooth lines and clear function. People considered it a breakthrough in Nordic furniture, while it also changed the usual impression of sanatoriums and developed into an epitome of the design industry in Scandinavia.
The Egg Chair, designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen in 1958, is one of the most recognizable furniture pieces of 20th-century interior design. The design is still used today as a symbol of a refined urban lifestyle in ads and films.
Instead of using a steel or wooden frame, which was common at the time, the designer chose to use hard foam to create the mold, which was then upholstered. Covered with premium Italian leather and stuffed with high-density foam, the chair could adjust height according to different weights, which helped users gain a more comfortable position.
Another highlight of the show is from Danish designer Jørgen Høvelskov. The Harp Chair, designed in 1963, is considered a masterpiece. Inspired by the flowing lines of the bow and stern of a pirate ship, the designer used cherry wood for the solid frame and sail ropes to create the back and seat, providing ample comfort and support for the body while creating an artistic look. The natural simplicity and plain shape reflect the beauty of the furniture.
Renowned Danish designer, Hans J. Wegner, also made a contribution to Nordic design. His AP19 Papa Bear Oak Chair features “wooden paws” at the end of the armrests. The solid oak frame and thick fabric create a new type of seat with robust and comfortable properties. Sitting in the chair is like a safe fantasy of being hugged by a papa bear.
In the 1980s, Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik made a famous chair named the Globe Garden. This piece is more like an art installation than a chair. Opsvik hoped to change the conventional perception of sitting. He encouraged people to gain freedom by constantly adjusting sitting positions.
At the exhibition, a green horse catches the attention of visitors. The Pony Chair designed by Eero Aarnio in 1973 is a soft animal-shaped figure that allow people to sit freely, as if riding a horse. Though looking like a child’s rocking horse, the chair comes in both children’s and adult sizes.
The Phantom Chair also looks avant-garde in contrast with other exhibits. It is from Danish architect Verner Panton, and was his final work before his death. The chair can be used if rotated, lay flat or stood up. In different aspects, it can serve as a chair, chaise lounge, bench or side table according to the user’s requirements.
The China Design Museum opened in 2018 inside the Xiangshan campus of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. The museum was built and founded at a time when China started to realize the significance of design. Thus far, it has collected thousands of pieces of Bauhaus and Bauhaus-related modern design, a number of menswear items by Italian clothing designer Massimo Osti and over 100 pieces of Western modern design that are in daily use.
Date: Through June 20 (closed on Mondays)
Address: 352 Xiangshan Rd