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Design classics: The Oxford Chair

October 1, 2011

This month’s Design Classic is the Oxford Chair designed by Arne Jacobsen and manufactured by Fritz Hansen.  First designed in 1963 and still available it has definitely earned its place in our series.

Arne Jacobsen was a Danish architect and designer and who’s architectural style added to the ‘Danish Modern’ look.  He is very well-known for the furniture he designed, some of his  iconic pieces include the Swan chair and the Egg Chair.  Jacobsen started his collaboration with Fritz Hansen in 1934 and he continued to work with them for the rest of his career.

In the early 1960s the dons of St. Catherine’s College in Oxford were seeking an architect for an extension to their college.  As part of their research a group visited Denmark to see Arne Jacobsen’s Munkegard School in Gentofte, and the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.  Following the visits the college appointed Jacobsen in 1963 to design not only the extension to St. Catherine’s College, but also the gardens and the furniture.

Despite initial protests that a foreign Modernist architect had been appointed, the final building and environment was loved by everyone at St Catherine’s.  Following completion Jacobsen was given an honorary doctorate from Oxford.

The original Oxford chair was a high-backed wooden version without any upholstery.  The chair was made out of one continuous piece of plywood, and was designed to support the natural curves of the body.   The high back served as a symbol of prestige among the college.

Following the success of the chairs at St Catherine’s the Oxford series was officially launched in 1965.  Some modifications were made to appeal to a larger market, the seat featured upholstery and padding!  Over the years there have been some slight changes to the series – it is now available with three different seat back heights and with or without castors.  To suit any environment, whether for an office or for a home, the chair can be manufactured in a range of leathers and fabrics.

If you visit St. Catherine’s the original chairs are still is use.  The outstanding contribution to architecture and design of St. Catherine’s College was recognised in 1993 when the buildings Jacobsen designed received a Grade I listing.  Whatever you need from a chair, the Oxford Chair is a great place to start your search.

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