Hans Wegner and the pursuit of the “good chair”
Above all, Wegner was a master craftsman with a keen understanding of the properties and potential of natural materials. He was apprenticed to a carpenter at the age of 17 before studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and subsequently training as an architect, and throughout his career, he would sketch, model and then hand-build the prototypes for his designs.
Designed in 1957, the CH33 chair exemplifies Wegner’s profound appreciation of wood as well as his consideration for the end-user. This exceptionally light, comfortable and stable chair has a rounded, organic form that gently embraces the sitter.
“A chair is to have no backside,” Wegner pronounced: “It should be beautiful from all sides and angles.”
The CH33 fulfils these design criteria while elegantly expressing the innate qualities of the materials and the processes used in its production. The legs and cross pieces are broadest where they support load-bearing joints and fluidly taper where the distribution of weight allows.
The visible joints where the backrest fixes to the back legs are another Wegner hallmark – a small but emphatic detail that celebrates the skill and craft involved in making this chair.
Wegner described the evolution of the “Danish style” as “a continuous process of purification, and of simplification, to cut down to the simplest possible elements of four legs, a seat and combined top rail and armrest.”
The CH33 represents a key point in this pursuit of purity and simplicity of form while its distinct sculptural qualities anticipate Wegner’s more expressive works of the 1960s, such as the CH07.
Unsurprising then, that when Carl Hansen + Son celebrated the anniversary of Wegner's birth in 2014, they did so by releasing a special edition of the CH33 in oak and walnut.
The Anniversary CH33 pays homage to Wegner’s fondness for mixing different woods in his designs. The combination of light and dark wood also serves to highlight the chair’s physical construction and gracefully emphasises the craftmanship that was central to Wegner’s design philosophy.
The ideal chair, Wegner mused with characteristic modesty, “does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with.” As a result, Wegner designed over 500 chairs in the course of his career.
When asked what his other interests were, his daughter Marianne (who was to take over his studio when Wegner retired in the 1990s) laughingly replied: “Apart from furniture? None.”
Carl Hansen & Son is currently offering a special promotion on a selection of chairs designed by Wegner – including the CH33. Until 11th December, customers will be able to order five chairs and receive a sixth chair free.
The ideal chair may remain an elusive ideal, but Wegner’s legacy leaves us with very many, very good chairs to choose from.