ALBANO: SENNA CHAIR BY GUNNAR ASPLUND
Furniture, like clothing, is subject to the aesthetic whims of the times, its fashions and fads.
I often ask myself, given the number of chairs already in existence, do we need to continue designing new ones? Beauty in chair design, as in so many other fields of creativity, is achieved through the careful manipulation of function, form, proportion, technology and materials.
The Senna chair, shown here, was created by the renowned Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund around 1920 for a public library that he was also designing. There is something about this serene looking armchair that makes it hard to fit into a precise aesthetic time line, however. Is it Greek? Or Italian? The distinct Neo Classical style leaves you questioning the actual provenance of it.
For years I’ve been drawn to this chair, its sensual, gracious sweep of a back rest and seat wrapped in leather and then it’s little solid walnut timber arms flying out to the side of you as you as you recline into it. I also love how the simplicity of it all is then embellished with such whimsical decorative elements. The leather is silk screened with little drawings by Asplund whilst the arms are finished with a bas relief knob of a side profile cameo.
It blurs the lines between being a strikingly modern and a decorative historical piece. Much of the admiration I have for this design also comes from the ease with which it can be introduced to any stylish interior. It’s as much a sculpture as it is a practical item.
As with so many other objects of desire, it’s become extremely difficult to acquire one of your very own. Cassina of Italy, who reissued the design in 1983, have now stopped all production of it. One wonders whether it’s the somewhat rare and special materials that have made the chair seem politically out of place in today’s green market or simply a lack of shopper demand for it. Whatever it may be, it is still very much on my wish list.