Like many designers in the mid 20th century, Børge Mogensen (1914-1972) was an idealist and was focused on creating furniture that would not only stand the test of time in terms of quality but also inspire to design a home in a sensible and tasteful manner. His work was driven by social concerns, solving problems in residential living spaces with his studies in human proportions.
The Danish designers’ work was deeply rooted in fuctionalism. Functionalism, as an ideal that anything designed with practicality in mind would be inherently beautiful, grew in popularity with the European Modernist movements of the late 1920s. Unlike the Bauhaus members and Le Corbusier who used new materials such as steel, glass and concrete, for building, Mogensen was more inclined to use those materials that were more traditional to Denmark such as wood and brick. He also rejected upholstery.
Mogensen’s pieces were intended for everyday use, designed for mass production in order to keep prices low and purchased by the general public. He wanted to provide the average family with comfort and modern furniture that was inexpensive.
On a trip to Spain in 1958 Mogensen was enchanted by the classic Spanish country chair which has a deep seat and wide armrests. Upon his return, he designed his iconic Spanish chair with precise proportions. The chair is not short of material, reflective of a general state of the economy that was booming in the late 1950s. In the solid construction of the Spanish Chair, all of it’s parts are visible such as the leather buckles that hold the seat in place. The leather backrest bends slightly for comfortable support and the wide armrests made of oak are great for resting a glass of wine or coffee.
The Spanish chair was exhibited in the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition in Copenhagen in 1958 and was put into production in 1959 at Federicia Furniture. Like many great designs, the Spanish Chair also received criticism as a chair that was best for gallery spaces and not suit for the broader population. The chair indeed demands space in order to be appreciated from all of its sides.
In comparison with Mogensen’s previous designs there is a further step taken in the design of the Spanish Chair. Mogensen maintains a simplicity in his choice of materials but the Spanish Chair is naturally adorned by the patterns in the oak armrests and the patina created over time by use on the tanned leather.
Although Mogensen criticized many of his design colleagues when form trumped functionality, the Spanish Chair proves to be a piece that is highly concerned in its details of fabrication. Mogensen’s designs and ideals of simplicity and functional form part of the core values in Scandinavian design and as a designer he has become a major contributor to Danish design history.
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