A few days ago, I rediscovered my ‘Guldhøj’ stool under the stack of blankets it’s been holding for years.
It is a slightly redesigned version of a Bronze Age folding stool, found among other items in a burial mound. The original dates back around 1400 B.C., which makes it the oldest piece of furniture in Scandinavia. Archaeological excavations uncovered it in 1891 and picked up in 1960 by the local cabinet maker, Poul Hundevad, who turned it into his biggest claim to fame.
I find it fascinating how well it falls within the frame of mid-century Danish chair design, even with the little modification, Hundevad made to the original design.
Celebrity designers, such as Hans J. Wegner and Børge Mogensen, each designed numerous chairs using the same natural materials, a wooden framework and harness leather.
And the structural concept is even more minimalist and clever. The rods swell in the middle where it needs more strength because of the forces and the joint. And small dowels hold the seat in place.
In a very similar design from 1934, Ole Wanscher used the same structural concept but inspired by Egyptian originals.
And also Poul Kjærholm designed his own version in 1961, PK91, using a steel frame:
It’s probably too speculative to draw a straight line between the Guldhøj Stool to 20th-century design philosophy. The design is rather generic and can’t substantiate my wish to prove, that design runs in the blood of Scandinavians since the beginning of time. But in many examples, ‘generic’ is one typical quality of Danish Design in the sense, that it is often unassuming, rational, straight forward and essential.
The original was not a common man’s piece of furniture. Bronze Age people only buried rich and important in mounds. And the equipment they sent with their loved ones to the next world was not random everyday things, that no one wanted anymore. This chair has traces of carefully carved ornamentation. It was an exquisite object of the highest craftsmanship.
But despite the exclusivity of the original, the resemblance to the mid-century icons is undeniable, and it’s striking to compare the original, the modern version and other chair designs from the 50s, and, actually, still today.
The original can be seen at the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen. And then the link can be evaluated first hand by visiting the permanent chair exhibition at the Danish Design Museum nearby.
Feel free to share your opinion on how much of a connection you find. Thanks 🙂
As a side note, some speculates about the possible, ancient exchange between South and North: