Monday, February 23, 2015

Church Chair, Kaare Klint, 1936

Few things are hotter in furniture at the moment than Danish modern design.  Its emphasis on purity of form and craftmanship are the legacy of Kaare Klint (1888-1954), an architect and designer who is considered the godfather of the Danish modern aesthetic.   Klint designed two churches (more on them later), but on this Sunday I am thinking of his chairs.

Designed in 1936, Klint's famous 'church chair' drew from the straightforward integrity of American Shaker design, interpreted in Scandinavian materials of beech and a woven paper-twist seat.  Unlike other modernists, Klint honored tradition within his own version of strict functionality, to which he added a rigorous study of human proportions and movement.  He often spent years in research before producing his furniture, and his focus on the relationship of furniture to the human form gave rise to what we now call ergonomics.

So Klint's church chair had no right angles and the slats of the ladder back were individually curved for comfort.  He lowered the psalm book shelf from the middle to the base of the back for better balance. And when used in concert, the chairs were cleverly kept straight by a wooden rod inserted through a leather strap beneath the seats.

Given the truly hideous assemblies of metal and cheap fabric that most churches choose (whose heavy padding btw, is a sign of their poor design; well-balanced chairs don't need padding to be comfortable), it's nice to remember a time when more care and attention was given to the lowly 'church chair'.

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