The New Danish Modern

Words Christina Faaborg
Photographer Mikkel Russel | Tomorrow Management
Interior Stylist Leif Sigersen | Tomorrow Management
Retouch Mikkel Russel | Tomorrow Management

Special Thanks
Kasper Salto, Thomas Sigsgaard, La Glace & Rabens Atelier

The design duo Salto & Sigsgaard won the prestigious honour of designing a new chair as well as meeting tables for the restoration of the Finn Juhl Chamber at the UN headquarters in New York. While the shoes to fill are big, it is also a great opportunity to recreate Danish Modern in New York.

For the first time, it is possible to see more than just a pretty architect drawing of Salto & Sigsgaard’s Council Chair. Interior stylist Leif Sigersen and photographer Mikkel Russel have been allowed to borrow the chair and style it the way it deserves – taking centre stage.

Salto & Sigsgaard’s Council Chair is being produced by furniture manufacturer One Collection and it will be possible to purchase the chair in various types of wood.

The chair is suitable for both private homes and around the company’s conference table.

Designers Kasper Salto & Thomas Sigsgaard
Designers Kasper Salto & Thomas Sigsgaard

On 9 June 2011, the world’s leading art museum, MOMA in Midtown Manhattan, provided the setting for the revelation of the winner of the prestigious competition to design new furniture and fittings for the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN headquarters in New York.

The chamber has been dubbed the Finn Juhl Chamber as it was the renowned Danish architect who in 1949 – more than 60 years ago – was chosen by the Danish state to furnish the chamber from floor to ceiling with everything from furniture to wall lining. At that time, Juhl was already popular in the United States. One of the most prominent personalities within the American design movement, Edgar Kaufmann Jr., discovered Finn Juhl’s design while traveling Scandinavia in 1948. Juhl’s furniture design was quickly emphasised by trend-setting design magazine ‘Interiors’ as outstanding Danish design due to its organic idiom.

Back in Denmark, however, Finn Juhl’s fame was a different story. Here, Kaare Klint and Hans J. Wegner had won popularity in Danish homes with their very formalistic furniture. Therefore, Juhl was also called the forgotten designer and he was almost disliked by his contemporaries as many felt that Juhl, with his artistic and not very pragmatic approach, did not make furniture for the people.

So, although it was a big opportunity for Danish design that a Danish architect was to furnish a chamber at the new UN headquarters, Finn Juhl had already paved the way for Danish Modern, which became a major success in American middle-class homes. Over time, Danish Modern was forgotten, and the Finn Juhl Chamber has dwindled and even been refurbished without regard for the original design. This changed in 2010 when the Danish Arts Foundation, the Danish Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited designers to take part in the competition to design a new chair and meeting tables in connection with the complete restoration of the chamber.


Big Shoes to Fill

“We received the invitation by phone”, remembers Kasper Salto about the day in 2010 when he and his partner, Thomas Sigsgaard were invited to take part in the competition. “Of course it is always wonderful to be offered a project but it was a huge honour to be invited to ‘fiddle’ with Finn Juhl’s chamber”, Thomas Sigsgaard continues. “As the competition began, we gradually realised how big a deal it really was”.

After a brief from the Danish Arts Foundation, the two designers began collecting all the information they could find on the chamber and the thoughts behind Finn Juhl’s design. The project included designing a chair of which 10 copies would surround the secretariat table, which was also to be redesigned along with the delegate tables in the ‘arena’.

Kasper Salto and Thomas Sigsgaard have been working together since 2005 and their collective designs so far have mostly been lamps. Therefore, this was an entirely new direction for their partnership. And it was not until they stood at MOMA together with the four other invitees, waiting for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark to announce the winner that the two young designers realised how prestigious this project really was.

“The furniture industry can be slightly narrow – and with almost every competition there is a little bird announcing the winner in advance. This time, however, nobody had heard the slightest of peeps”, says Salto. “Everything was kept secret until the very last moment”. But, in the end, it was Salto & Sigsgaard’s design that won.

The next big moment will be the inauguration of the chamber in April 2013. “Then it will all become really real when we get to see everything in the same context in the restored universe of Finn Juhl”. Now that the final phase of the restoration has commenced, the designers receive weekly photo updates in order to follow the last part through. (…)

Read more in Tomorrow’s Journal | Issue 6

Photographer Mikkel Russel


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.