Gärsnäs designs new chairs for UN Headquarters

- Åke Axelsson behind the Zen New York chair

Furniture manufacturer Gärsnäs has received the honorary assignment to design and manufacture chairs for one of the busiest rooms at the UN Headquarters: the ECOSOC chamber. The order covers 240 Zen New York delegate chairs created on the pillar of sustainability, aesthetics, and ergonomics: “It’s a big order for us”, says co-owner Dag Klockby to Dagens Industri.

When the UN headquarters were completed in 1951, there were Swedish elements to be seen in the building. Sven Markelius, one of the leading figures of functionalism during the 1920s, was commissioned to decorate the most important meeting room in the building: the ECOSOC chamber. The task of designing the hundreds of chairs for the meeting tables went to Elias Svedberg, one of the big names in Swedish interior design at the time.

The Svedberg chairs have served the chamber well for over 70 years, having been repaired and reupholstered. However, stated a few years ago, the original chairs were beyond saving. The task of designing and manufacturing new chairs now went to the furniture manufacturer Gärsnäs on assignment by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden.

– The backs of the Zen chairs make a soft wave shape in the room. The project’s keywords were friendly, generous, and embracing, says Lotta Cronsjö Gest, the project’s interior architect at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The Zen New York chairs are made at the Gärsnäs factory in southern Sweden and designed and developed by the doyen of Swedish furniture design, Åke Axelsson. The chair is low maintenance, and the undercarriage, seat as well as back are easy to disassemble. The chair’s back wave shape resembles Svedberg’s original chair. Likewise, the legs in light ash echo its predecessor.

– It’s important that this new chair has a feeling of Scandinavian wood. It’s not just about designing a new chair but gathering and developing experiences, says Åke Axelsson.

Gärsnäs was founded in 1893 and bought 20 years ago by designer Åke Axelsson and daughter Anna with husband Dag Klockby. The company has furnished everything from embassies and authorities to concert halls. Part of the goal of doubling turnover is to focus more on the private market, which is why the chair Zen New York will be manufactured for this target group at the turn of the year.

Source: Gärnäs and Dagens Industri (daily Swedish newspaper – focusing on business)