Infinite perfection: Loop Chair by Willy Guhl


Try to draw a chair in one continuous line. Changes are big you will end up with a chair in a kind off blob/organic shape. Being a chair collector for years now, I have seen quite a fair amount chairs. Very few I remember so clearly as this chair. Meet the Loop chair by Swiss architect Willy Guhl.
The first time I saw this chair, I was still an architecture student at the TUDelft. I just starting assisting Charlotte van Wijk, the conservator of the chair collection of the Faculty of Architecture with the preparations of the Exhibtion ‘Hoe zit dat’ in the City museum of Kampen. We were making the selection for the pieces and we instantly agreed on including this one.
To me this chair was just perfect: seen from the side it has an elegant shape, thin like a pencil line. Seen from the front the chairs shows it rough Eternit surface. The chair is perfect blend of elegance and roughness, male and female. I wished I could own one myself…
Years later, I spotted one at the Design Börse Dusseldorf, unfortunately above my budget at the time (I was still a student). But regardless, I went on the internet trying to find one on, the Dutch Craigslist. And still the car on my way home I found a set listed. As soon I arrived home, I called the seller, what a surprise they were still available! A few weeks later I was the proud owner of an early set of two original Loop Chairs.
But the story continues, remember this is one of my all-time favorite chairs. So a couple of years later, again at the Design Börse Dusseldorf, I found another set. They were in slightly lesser condition then the first set, but I didn’t think twice and just bought them. At home I discovered something interesting:
although the two sets look alike, they have a slightly different design in the angle of the back.  One is a low chair (H 53 cm x W 55 cm x D 80 cm), the other a lounge chair (H 53 cm x W 55 cm x D 90 cm). It’s a minor detail you won’t recognize unless you see them next to each other, or unless you sit on them.
So what is this Loop Chair? The Loop chair or Garden Chair is designed by Willy Guhl, one of the most important pioneers of Swiss industrial design. The chair (both versions) is part of whole collection of garden furniture Guhl designed for the company Eternit AG in Niederurnen. In 1951 this company was looking for new ways of promoting their new sheet material eternit. This fiber enforced concrete is thin, easy to pleat, fold and bend, allowing a large freedom in shape. They asked Guhl and his students at the Kunstgewerbeschule to work with this material to create some new planters. After that Guhl worked for Eternit, creating several chairs and planters, like diabolo and Oreille d’Éléphant (elephants ear), using the extrodinarry qualities of the material. There is only one slight disadvantage: eternit fibers contain asbestos and are toxic when inhaled. So it’s best to use these pieces outside or just keep them as decorative items.
But it’s such a shame to just look at this wonderful chair and not use it! Eternit must have thought the same. In 2015 they launched a new version of the Loop Chair, using non-toxic recyclable fibers. Unfortunately, that’s not all they changed. To make production and use a bit easier, they changed the surface of the chair, giving it some extra pleats.  The chairs looses it’s powerful one-line shape. However this new version is a lot cheaper then the original vintage ones and can be used on a daily basis. Everyday I look out my window and see this sculptural chair sitting in the garden, there is no better way of starting my day.

Garden Chair / Loop Chair
Willy Guhl (1915-2004)
Design: 1954
Production: 1954 – 1980 (production continued in 2015)
Manufacturer: Eternit AG, Niederurnen, Switzerland
Size: 55 x 55 x 80 cm / seat height 11cm
Material: fibrated concrete, with a surface seal (painted white)

You can find pieces by Willy Guhl on 1stdibs and Retrostart.
Loop Chair on the streets of New York
Loop Chair on the streets of New York.

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