The Chair JH503

JH503It seems that every architect and every furniture designer designs at least one chair. This has given us a bewildering choice of styles when it comes to seating, but unfortunately not a lot of comfort, nor an abundance of good design.

For this reason, I select the Hans J. Wegner’s ‘The Chair JH503’ as my exemplar. Designed in 1950 (originally with a rattan seat and originally known as ‘The Round Chair’) JH503 is a wonderful example of the furniture designer’s craft. It combines style and high quality craftsmanship, yet was still able to be produced industrially.

JH503 uses no more materials than are needed, and yet the chair does not appear mean. The arms are attached to the extended front leg, meaning that there is no gap and no overhanging end of the arm to catch on clothing. (I know one man who had three jackets torn away at the side pockets from malevolent chair arms.) The back is high enough and curved enough to provide comfortable support. The legs are slanted outward to both visually suggest, and provide, stability.

In 1960, CBS screened the first live televised presidential debate between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon. Kennedy had requested the Round Chair because he wanted a comfortable chair for his well-documented aching back. The chair was mentioned frequently in reports of the debate, and so much media interest was generated that commentators simply called it ‘The Chair’.

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