For a company that is turning 150 next year, Fritz Hansen has done a remarkable job at remaining relevant in the progressive and oft-times fickle furniture design industry.
When enterprising cabinetmaker Fritz Hansen of Nakskov, Denmark, obtained a trade license in 1872, few could have predicted the status and legacy that the company bearing his name would hold over furniture design in the 20th and 21st centuries. Capitalising on Denmark’s newfound status as a leader in design around the world, Fritz Hansen embarked on successful collaborations with famed names such as Kaare Klint and Hans Wegner during the 1930s and 1940s, at a time when many other companies were forced to shutter.
On the back of many Danish walnut trees succumbing to some dreadful winters during this period, Fritz Hansen’s eye for success carried through with the introduction of a walnut furniture range in the 1940s. Met with critical acclaim, the initiative garnered plenty of press and was deemed a great success, which again spoke to the company’s ability to anticipate consumer tastes.
It is undoubtedly the advent of Fritz Hansen’s association with Arne Jacobsen, however, that set the company up to become the iconic name it remains today. Although the relationship commenced in 1934, it was the design of the Ant Chair in 1952 that would set the scene for an unprecedented run of designs with which Fritz Hansen has become synonymous.
The Series 7, itself a variant of the Ant Chair, the Swan Chair and the Egg Chair all followed soon after, propelling Jacobsen forward as one of Denmark’s most significant designers and Fritz Hansen its most significant manufacturer.
The collaborative work of Arne Jacobsen and Fritz Hansen was not limited to the 1950s, nor was their relationship mutually exclusive. This is no better demonstrated than in the Super-Elliptical Table Series, put into production in 1968. A collaboration between Jacobsen, mathematician Piet Hein and designer Bruno Mathsson, the series was originally inspired by Hein’s solution to a traffic problem at Sergels Torg in Stockholm – specifically, a super elliptical roundabout – that the trio quickly realised possessed aesthetic qualities and a surprising harmony no matter the size.
The Fritz Hansen classics remain as relevant today as they did when they were first unveiled in the middle of last century. Many of the stories about the origins of Fritz Hansen’s products speak to the seemingly effortless genius of the designers behind them. Yet for all the designers that the company has worked with, it is Fritz Hansen that has proven to be the enduring facilitator in bringing these icons of design to life.