In the early 1960s when many furniture designers such as Charles and Ray Eames Danish Verner Panton, Finnish-American Eero Saarinen and the Frenchman, Pierre Paulin, were experimenting with new materials like, aluminium, fibreglass, plastic and rubber, Wegner chose to go in a different direction altogether.
Ref: Hans J. Wegner. A Nordic Design Icon from Tønder. Edited by Anne Blond.
While he was no doubt interested in these new materials and would probably have liked to investigate their possibilities more than he did, one of the reasons he didn’t was because he felt obliged to create new furniture designs each year for the marketing organization, Salesco which only marketed and sold Wegner’s furniture. In other words, he was needed elsewhere and there one worked in wood.
The dining room chair, CH36, was the first in a long series of Shaker inspired chairs that Wegner designed for Carl Hansen & Son throughout the 1960s. The Shaker, a religious sect in the United States, comprising of northern European immigrants had since the beginning of the 19th century have lived in small communities.
external influences the sect fostered a tradition of artisanship. Its members believed that the spiritual and temporal worlds meet in the things they build and surround themselves with. Therefore an object’s exterior must be modified as little as possible and be pure, unadorned and robust. It is for this same reason that an object’s function completely dictates its form. According to Shaker aesthetics, beauty is expressed in functionality.
Wegner particularly found inspiration in the archetypal Shaker chair that consists of a slender – but strong – wooden frame with straight angles, a woven seat that is penetrated by the legs in the two front corners, and three or four wide transverse rails in the back. Apart from a tilt of a few degrees, the sitting position is upright.
There is absolutely nothing superfluous about CH36. It is light, taught, rectilinear, with a woven seat and slightly angled back providing little opportunity to shift one’s sitting position. The underframe, strechers, legs and seat are quite reminiscent of the Wishbone Chair, another dining room chair made by Carl Hansen & Son, yet because of the Wishbone Chair’s open, round sculptural top, the two appear to be diametrical opposites.