Hans J. Wegner
Wegner was born in Tondern, Denmark in 1914. As war was raging across Europe it can only be assumed that the infant was dreaming of carpentry and in 1927, at the tender age of 13 he became an apprentice cabinet maker. Nine years later, having gained a solid understanding of the capabilities of and techniques for crafting wood he attended the Industrial Arts School in Copenhagen and upon graduating was granted a place of work in the office of none other that Arne Jacobsen. It should be understood at this time furniture was designed by architects (some say as an afterthought, others because architects tend to be control freaks) but Wegner along with his great friend Børge Morgsen were the first to break this mould and become “form givers” in their own right.
Wegner’s style was revolutionary. Long before the advent of bent ply and even longer before fibreglass & plastic, he experimented with stripping his chairs right down to the bare bones, exposing their skeletal form. A brave move when the general consensus was that padding equalled comfort.
Despite or perhaps because of his habit of working for days on end without sleep success was abundant. By the mid 50’s his furniture was being produced by no fewer than six companies, including Fritz Hansen, the stalwart of his former master Jacobsen and he had been awarded twenty-four prizes by the Cabinet Makers Guild.
Although Wegner experimented with plywood and tubular steel it is ultimately his designs in wood that are his most iconic and enduring. We all know the Wishbone, the Ox and the Peacock chairs but to see them, touch them and sit on them makes you humble to the man’s dedication, skill and eye for detail.
Wegner leaves us with a thought about chairs that should act as a rule for buying any item, no matter what the cost or ultimate function. “One should hold the piece upside down, for if the underside is okay then the rest is okay also”. Bottoms up Hans!