Just One Good Chair
One hot summer afternoon in 1950, Hans Wegner was watching his children play near the ocean, but his designing mind didn’t pause for a beach day. He dug a hole in the sand, experimenting with sitting positions and finally creating a comfortable perch: one that allowed him to recline while maintaining an unobstructed view of his surroundings. It was a new way for a chair to hold someone. Back at his summer cottage, Wegner sketched out the angles from the beach and began to develop the form for the Flag Halyard Chair.
“The Flag Halyard is unique in Wegner’s oeuvre,” says Christian Holmsted Olesen, author of Hans J. Wegner: Just One Good Chair, a monograph to be published this fall by Hatje Cantz in celebration of the Danish designer’s one-hundredth birthday and in conjunction with a major exhibition of the same name that is on view through November 2 at the Designmuseum Danmark. Oleson, a curator at the museum, points to the innovative use of tubular steel and the function that guided every detail of the chair’s design. “Despite its hard, industrial appearance, the Flag Halyard displays a sprawling, casual expressiveness that is conveyed by more than just the comfortable sheepskin and pillows. Its very construction makes the entire chair look playful and light.”
The chair is made from stainless steel in a broad, wheelbarrow-like shape with angled sides, a form that Oleson compares to a stealth aircraft but at least one early skeptic likened to a chair for a gynecological exam. It is covered in nearly 800 feet of specially developed flag line that forms the seat and back. By attaching the ends of the plaited halyard to the stretchers beneath the chair, Wegner ensured that they could be tightened if they become loose. The angled legs are propped on large feet that visually anchor the form and protect the floor from scratches. A long-haired sheepskin softens the industrial rigor of the steel.
“If only you could design just one good chair in your life….But you simply cannot,” Wegner said in 1952. By the time he died in 2007, he had designed some 500 chairs, including the Wishbone and the Round Chair, along with hundreds of other pieces of furniture. And while he never rested on his quest for the perfect chair, he knew exactly when one of his creations was complete. According to Wegner, “A chair isn’t finished until someone sits in it.”
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