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Which Came First, the Swan or the Egg?

2013 March 12

This month, we’re celebrating all things modern design here on the blog, highlighting pieces that have made design history, new and buzzworthy introductions and the stories behind contemporary work from all over the globe. Be sure to check back all month long, and stop by The Design Event at Lumens.com, our semi-annual sale on 12+ modern design brands.

 

Swan Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen

Swan Chair

They came at about the same time, actually. Both the Egg Chair and the Swan Chair were designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958 to furnish a hotel that he had also designed, the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen

Egg Chair

The hotel is itself the epitome of austere modern Danish design, all clean lines and airy, open spaces. Jacobsen designed the Egg Chair and the Swan Chair to directly contrast with and balance that straight-lined aesthetic. So, with the exception of their bases, the chairs were all curves, soft and rounded and just begging for someone to sit in them.

In addition to wanting to contrast with the architecture of the hotel’s spaces, Jacobsen took into account the openness of it. While open spaces are prized for their sense of freedom, they can also make people tend to feel vulnerable. So, like a mama bird or the interior of an egg, the chairs were designed to envelop their occupants, to protect and embrace them. The inwardly curving lines also effectively created a sense of privacy and encouraged intimate conversations, to Jacobsen’s mind an absolute necessity in vast open spaces. Of the two, the Egg Chair could be considered the more “protective,” with a fuller body in contrast to the Swan Chair’s more tapered “wings.”

Royal Hotel reception area

Royal Hotel lobby

So, how were these super-curvaceous beauties made? As it so turns out, the process used to produce the Egg Chair and the Swan Chair was just as innovative as the resulting forms. In his search for the perfect shapes, Jacobsen actually first experimented with clay at his home. Once he found the forms that satisfied him, Jacobsen used a similarly soft-to-hard material to sculpt the actual chairs: a strong molded foam inner shell underneath fabric or leather upholstery. It was the first time anyone had ever tried that technique. And you’d be hard-pressed to find pieces since that have used it so well.

In the more than 50 years since Jacobsen’s vision first came to life, the Royal Hotel (now the Radisson Royal Hotel) has updated the majority of its interiors. One notable exception is Room 606, also known as the Arne Jacobsen Room, a Danish modern time capsule filled with a veritable flock of Egg Chairs and Swan Chairs.

Today, all Swan Chairs and Egg Chairs (and many other Arne Jacobsen furniture designs) are available through the Republic of Fritz Hansen.

Room 606, the "Arne Jacobsen Room"

Room 606, the “Arne Jacobsen Room”

Arne Jacobsen, Royal Hotel, 1960

Arne Jacobsen, SAS Royal Hotel, 1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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