A Re-Engineered Classic of Danish Modern Design Proves That a Little Reinvention Never Hurt Anyone
How does a design reach icon status? For one, its custodians can’t be afraid of a little reinvention. But they also need to understand what made the design so timeless in the first place. With its recent reissue of PK1 — the first dining chair ever designed by quintessential Danish Modern designer Poul Kjærholm — Carl Hansen & Søn adroitly toes this line.
Originally designed in 1955, the lightweight and stackable PK1 chair was initially made from brushed steel and wicker. Kjærholm had a penchant for using steel in combination with softer, more organic materials that could balance his more minimalist designs. But wicker has a tendency to break, and a first attempt at reissue a few years ago using flagline was equally disappointing for its tendency to stretch and sag. The new version is made using paper cord, a material Carl Hansen & Søn has been perfecting for decades, which has both durability and comfort in spades. The new, elegant cradle of the chair takes a craftsperson 15 hours and nearly 600 feet of cord to weave, with an intricate technique developed especially for the PK1.
One unusual thing about launching a mid-century chair for today’s market is that you have to upsize it; on average, people have gotten bigger, so the PK1’s dimensions have been scaled up by 6% to accommodate this. Every update was made within a close working relationship between Carl Hansen & Søn and the Kjærholm family; namely the designer’s children, Thomas and Krestine. And every decision was made with respect for Kjærholm’s vision and uncompromising dedication to minimal form, quality materials, and craftsmanship — something third-generation owner-manager Knud Erik Hansen inherently understands working in a family business. “While the PK1 in paper cord features something new, it oozes familiarity,” he says. Hansen also believes that while Danish Modern furniture is so beloved for its quality, comfort, and clear expression, it’s also increasingly looked to for its low environmental impact. “A crucial factor to consider when launching a new product today,” he says. After all, a classic ought to be forever.