A museum-worthy chair pays homage to Scandinavian tradition, in a contoured form that’s surprisingly high-tech.
1 CLASSICALLY MODERN
When manufacturer Swedese and the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg approached Claesson Koivisto Rune in 2011, the clients simply asked for a comfortable, hard-wearing wooden chair to define the museum’s new café. The superstar design trio of Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune wanted to respond with an object that felt of a piece with the Scandinavian aesthetic of blond wood and clean lines, but that could take advantage of modern technology to deliver a more contemporary feel. According to Koivisto, “A chair is so difficult to design because your body feels its shortcomings immediately. To make a comfortable chair is not so difficult. To make a design-intensive chair is also quite easy. But to make a design-intensive chair that is also comfortable is very difficult. That’s why there are not so many of them around.”
2 SIT REPORT
The Röhsska chair’s apparent simplicity belies the year or so of intense research that went into perfecting its every line and angle. The design team produced hundreds of pencil sketches before making about a dozen 1:1 scale models in paper, complete with joinery and detailing. From these, they developed a rough computer model, and tweaked it after sketching some more and testing wooden prototypes. Once the digital model was finalized, the fabrication process became simple. “Swedese is quite advanced at computer-assisted milling,” Koivisto says. The chassis alone would have been impossible to replicate using traditional methods: too many of the pieces – the legs and the subtly twisting crossbar that supports the back – meet at gentle curves, with precise joinery that deviates just a shade from the perpendicular. While the seat pan and the back were not computer milled, they are based on digitally cut forms and fashioned out of laminated wood, curved to precise proportions.
3 MAKING AN UNDERSTATEMENT
All of this fine tuning produced a lightweight oak chair of surprising comfort. CKR broke with convention by making a seat pan that narrows from back to front rather than front to back. “That has been a no-no traditionally,” says Koivisto. “It gives the chair more comfort, but also a certain neatness.” The ones in the museum’s café sport an added detail, with two circular holes cut from each chair’s back or seat to represent the umlaut central to the visual identity of the Röhsska Museum, which has also added the chair to its permanent collection. And, for those who can’t make it to Stockholm, Swedese has put the chair into production, offering it in a natural oak veneer, or finished in black or white lacquer, with a wooden or upholstered seat.