Culture

Inimitable Simplicity: Artek’s Stool 60

17 December 2021

An emblem of classic design’s staying power, the Alvar Aalto’s Stool 60 is eternal in its charm.

When the French writer, poet, journalist and aristocrat Antoine de Saint-Exupery said that “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away”, he was offering an acute celebration of a minimalist way of thinking, alongside a condemnation of early 20th century opulence - a chaste admonition of a cultural discourse that celebrated excess, frivolity and decadence.

His supportive statement on the benefits of minimalism succinctly categorises and defines the beauty of minimalist art, architecture, fashion and, indeed, furniture design. Encapsulating Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s notion of perfection, Artek’s celebrated Stool 60 embodies the old saying that “less is more” – a synecdoche for an ever-continuing desire for perfection – delivering a revolutionary piece of design that remains a potent fixture within the world of furniture and design overall.

Originally designed in 1933 by Finnish architect and designer, Alvar Aalto, a pioneer of wood-bending and laminating techniques, the deceptively simple piece of furniture beautifully reflected this uncompromising vision of what home furnishings could be. After working in Nordic Classicism, Aalto’s designs began to become shaped by a more contemporary approach to furniture design – Functionalism – an attitude that valued the consideration of practical usage and functionality in favour of pure aesthetics.  

First appearing in an exhibition that celebrated Finnish designers entitled “Wood Only” at Fortnum & Mason, the wooden Stool 60 exemplified a forward-thinking and unique approach to furniture design that utilised Aalto and furniture maker Otto Korhonen’s patented wood bending process, a process that would later become the designer’s signature technique.

An elemental piece, the Stool 60 offers a genius that belies its apparent simplicity. As versatile as it is quietly charming, this seemingly unassuming stool can be used as a seat, a table, storage unit or display surface, ultimately rendering the seat as the perfect piece for modern life’s increased obsession with small living spaces.

With a trio of legs – known as the “L Leg” - mounted directly to the underside of the circular seat panel, the Stool 60 forgoes complicated joinery and connective elements in favour of a simple and sturdy construction. Designed for perfect equilibrium, the piece stacks into a towering structural sculpture, ensuring the ideal blend of esoteric aesthetic values, storage ease and functional capabilities. Manufacturing the stool in 42 separate production steps out of solid birch wood at the A-Factory in Turku, Finland, Artek celebrate the mastery behind one of the most celebrated pieces in the history of furniture design.

Inaugurated into MoMA’s permanent collection in 1958, the Stool 60 continues to prove to be a highly popular piece, with collaborations and special edition renditions continuing to ensure the style remains ever-present within the cultural canon. Notable collaborations with Our Legacy, Comme Des Garçons and Supreme elucidate this further, insightfully playing with the Stool 60’s aesthetic in 2D, while its instantly recognisable 3D structure remains a potent symbol of Aalto’s influence and importance within contemporary furniture design.

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