When a new national museum opens in Norway next year, visitors will see the custom-designed Portrait chair made exclusively by Herman Miller on display.
With pieces presented in collections around the world, Zeeland-based Herman Miller (Nasdaq: MLHR) is no stranger to museums. September, however, marked the start of a new chapter, with the brand’s very first chair designed specifically for a museum.
At the 2021 Designer’s Saturday event in Oslo, Norway, September 10-12, attendees were invited to take a look at the country’s highly anticipated National Museum, which will open in June 2022, all by also having the chance to see the Portrait chair. , designed by Norwegian Andreas Engesvik and manufactured exclusively by Herman Miller, in the space it was designed to occupy.
The origins of the Portrait chair began four years ago as part of an open competition sponsored by Statsbygg – the National Property Council of Norway – and co-organized with the National Museum of Norway.
The competition brief called for a welcoming and multifunctional chair to be used in the museum’s many public spaces, including all of its galleries, the great hall, the etchings and drawings study rooms, the restaurant and the café-lounge.
The process began with an open preselection competition which attracted 26 applicants. Of these, 10 finalists were shortlisted and their names were placed in sealed envelopes for blind judging. A jury headed by British designer Jasper Morrison then narrowed down the entries to a single winner, Engesvik.
In the same way that a painted portrait aims to show the likeness, personality and even mood of the subject, the Portrait chair was designed to embody the essence of Norway, the museum said.
“The chair is loaded with symbolic meaning,” said Denise Hagströmer, design historian and senior design curator at the National Museum of Norway. “It has an official identity, since it was, in effect, commissioned by the nation, and it will be the chair present in key public spaces of the museum. It will be the iconic design object of the Museum for Contemporary Norwegian Design Culture.
The shapes and lines of the Portrait chair refer to the shapes and lines of the seated human body. In addition to the simple accents and natural materials that are common in contemporary Scandinavian design, Portrait’s sinuous lines and universal shapes bring out Norway’s poetic aesthetic, the museum noted.
“I wanted it to be a generous and comfortable chair, but I think it’s also important, when working in a familiar typology, to differentiate the design,” said Engesvik. “The Portrait chair is based on a familiar form – wooden seat and back with tubular steel – but it has been carefully proportioned and visually softened.
Hagströmer said Norwegian design has gained increasing international attention over the past two decades.
“It was a golden opportunity for the museum to build on this by promoting contemporary Norwegian design,” she said. “The Portrait chair is sophisticated, takes into account its intended environment, and manifests a historic design lineage while being extremely contemporary. “
Once the design is selected, the process then turned to selecting the company to manufacture the design. The open procurement procedure for producers was also carried out by the National Property Council.
“They concluded that Herman Miller’s century-old history and worldwide reputation stood out, as did Herman Miller’s keen understanding of the nature of this commission and the importance of collaboration with Statsbygg, the National Museum and Andreas Engesvik, “Hagströmer said. “Other aspects that stood out included Herman Miller’s competence, ability and attention to quality, research and development, as well as their technical and environmental management. “
Engesvik said it was an honor to work with Herman Miller on the project.
“For me, as a furniture designer, it’s a great recognition that an old and prestigious brand like Herman Miller will make the Portrait chair,” he said.
Although this is Engesvik’s first project with the Herman Miller brand, it is not his first with the company. Engesvik has worked with other brands that are part of the MillerKnoll collective, including Danish design brand HAY and Scandinavian brand Muuto.
The Portrait chair is available for purchase now as an accent chair or armchair, with several different finishes and upholstery options through Herman Miller. The museum plans to offer an exclusive finishing option for the chair in its gift shop. The starting retail price is $ 630.