Save the Swedish beech wood forest

June 30, 2023

Save the Swedish beech wood forest

In 1963, a design competition was launched to promote the use of Swedish beech wood in furniture design, which led to the emergence of famous designers and successful collaborations, ultimately saving the threatened beech forests in southern Sweden.

Sixty years ago, in 1963 a design competition was held aimed to stimulate the use of Swedish beech wood in furniture production. It might be hard to believe but the beautiful beech forests in southern Sweden were then threatened with extinction. Beech wood was not considered commercially interesting enough. Spruce, which had greater demand on the market, was planted instead.

Herbert Andersson, owner of Gärsnäs joined together with other furniture manufacturers and forest owners to prove that Swedish beech could be a beautiful type of wood in furniture design. The foundation Pro-Bok (eng. pro beech wood) was formed and a design competition was announced.  

Two of the competition´s prize winners were designers who would later become big names in the world of Swedish furniture design and interior architecture.

S 217 Chair designed by Åke Axelsson in 1963.

Åke Axelsson (b.1932) was awarded the second prize with the chair model S 217. This elegant chair became a best seller by Gärsnäs and is still, after 60 years available in the company´s special range. 

Axelsson himself has, besides designing all his famous wooden chairs, been active as an interior architect for nearly 70 years. He has received several large-scale commissions including the Swedish Parliament (with architect Peter Celsing, 1971). Other interior projects are the Stockholm School of Economics and the restoration of the historic Stockholm restaurant Den Gyldene Freden (1989) and the Parliament Library in 1997.

Opalen Chair designed by Börge Lindau & Bo Lindekrantz in 1973.

Another of the competition's prize winners was Börge Lindau (1932–1999). His entry was the comfortable and stackable Opalen chair, made of laminated beech wood. The chair attracted a lot of attention and was spotted by the renowned Finnish brand Asko. The first large-scale order for the chair came from the Hotel Opalen in Gothenburg, hence the chair´s name.

Two years later Börge Lindau together with Bo Lindekrantz (1932-2020) started a long-term and very successful cooperation with the Swedish furniture company Lammhults, who in 1973 relaunched the Opalen chair. The cooperation with Lammhults lasted until 1989 when the design team Lindau & Lindekrantz was split up and Lindau founded his own company Blå Station together with his children. 

So, what happened with the Pro-Bok foundation´s aim to save the southern beech forests? Their work really helped and throughout the 1970s, beech became the truly dominant type of wood used in Swedish furniture production. 

In the 1980s however, the trend shifted towards birch and oak and beech lost its attention. But today you can once again see an increasing interest in beech wood among Swedish furniture designers and manufacturers. 

Designer of the month
Bo Lindekrantz

Bo Lindekrantz worked together with Börge Lindau from the early 1960’s to the mid 80’s where they had a long-term successful collaboration with the furniture company Lammhults. After 1986 Lindekrantz founded his own design studio.

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