Stacking stools

Stacking stools

Stacking stools
Alvar Aalto (1898–1976)
Probably manufactured by Artek
Finland
Designed 1929–30
43.2 x 38.1 x 38.1cm
Solid birch and birch plywood
Museum no. W.50 to C–1977

Devising rigid bent elements that could simultaneously serve as leg and support for a seat was the object of considerable research by Alvar Aalto and can be seen in several of his plywood reliefs. For Aalto, the creation of a structural element that could serve simultaneously as a horizontal and vertical support was a ‘type’ solution in wood, analogous in its importance to the concrete piloti or the antique Doric column. He called the standard leg of his three-legged stools the ‘Doric’ leg or the ‘bent knee’.Aalto and Otto Korhonen patented (in Scandinavia and Britain) the method by which the Doric legs were formed: thin sawcuts were made along the grain of a birchwood lath (most of the length of which formed the leg), thereby allowing the necessary flexibility to bend the piece at the top. Into these slots were glued thin sheets of veneer, which, when set, maintained the right-angle bend. At first, the L-shaped legs had to be manufactured by hand, forming the tight curve out of the separate veneers of wood as it was glued, but a machine was soon developed that could perform this action in a hot press. The stool is reduced to its basic industrial components: an L-shaped leg and a circular top. Dozens of stools could be stacked in a corner, and the resultant spiralling form became a motif of displays of Aalto furniture in the 1930s and ever since.