When crossing the door of the Radisson SAS, hotel, on the bustling Vesterbrogade avenue, something strange happens. Time seems suspended. On the other side of the street, the Tivoli faces its dreamlike exuberance to the strict geometry that Arne Jacobsen drew for his tower in the Center of Copenhagen.
But in the lobby of the Radisson, everything seems to respond to a universe of pure, straight lines. Until at the bottom we distinguish, grouped in clusters, some ovoid figures: there are several copies of the egg chair.
The Norwegian designer Henry Walter Klein had patented different plastic molding processes throughout the 1950s and in 1956 he had manufactured his Model 1007 chair.
Jacobsen assumed in his egg chair the advances that Klein’s investigations had made in the manufacture of furniture, and he noticed the Model 1007 to shape the chair that would populate the enormous lobby of the Hotel SAS.
As on other occasions, the design manufacture would be entrusted to Fritz Hansen, a company that had to use some of Henry W. Klein’s patents under license.
The egg chair squeezed the sculptural possibilities of the new plastic molding processes but, above all, it managed to unite in a coherent whole the different parts of any chair:
the seat, the backrest and the armrests were resolved with a single concave shell.
To optimize the possibilities of the model, the fixation to the floor was solved with a metallic mechanism that allowed a slight swaying of the chair, and a cushion that made the seat more comfortable was added. The resulting form seemed an invitation to sit, almost a room before a chair, an enveloping object inevitably intended to house someone inside.
The production of the egg was never massive. The fixing of the coating to the structure had to be done manually and the process demanded a precision that was not available to any company. Apart from the mechanical molding processes, each copy of the chair requires an artisanal work that means that, even today, the production does not exceed ten copies per week.
For Fritz Hansen, the egg became a symbol from the first models produced in 1958. On the occasion of his fiftieth birthday he launched a limited series of prints, which showed the validity of Jacobsen’s design.
In a journey through the icons of 20th century design, we could not ignore the contributions of Jacobsen – the egg chair, the Swan or the Ant– but perhaps we would exclude the pieces by the Norwegian Henry Klein. Without their patents and their trials with plastic materials, however, it would have been impossible to conceive of an integral and complete piece like the egg.
But the recognition comes, often, for those who sensed the potential of an idea rather than those who engendered it.
And history has a fragile memory.
Borja López Cotelo. PhD architect
A Coruña. January 2011