Embracing (and Expanding) Tradition

Spanish designer Jaime Hayon puts his stamp on Fritz Hanson’s celebrated design tradition with the release of the FAVN sofa.

09.01.2011 by Janet Wiens

The Danish furniture brand the Republic of Fritz Hansen™ has established a long tradition of producing classic furnishings. The company’s newest sofa, FAVN™ — designed in collaboration between Fritz Hansen and Spanish designer Jaime Hayón—respects that tradition with a timeless yet updated design that is sure to be an important part of the company’s catalog for many years to come.

According to David Rosenkvist, vice president of North America for Fritz Hansen, the timing was right for the company to introduce a new sofa to the marketplace. “We introduced two new sofas in the past five years and these offerings were very successful,” he says. “We saw an opportunity to offer another sofa that would fit in with our iconic lounge chairs, the Egg™ and the Swan™, and that would be a complementary piece to these products.”

Rosenkvist says that company officials looked at the creative possibilities rather than focusing on commercial limitations when developing the sofa’s design brief. It was important to bring a unique sculptural piece to market that would create interest among architects and designers based on the quality of the design.

“One of our main goals was to develop a crossover piece that would work in both residential and contract settings,” says Rosenkvist. “The sofa’s design needed to have a pure expression in keeping with other pieces in the company’s lines.”

In addition to soliciting a timeless quality, the design brief also outlined the materials, construction and sustainability requirements of the project. In particular, the materials and construction techniques had to be of the highest quality, which would lead to a long product life and thus address a portion of the sustainability requirements.

Officials at Fritz Hansen invited three designers to submit responses to the design brief, and ultimately selected Jaime Hayón as FAVN’s designer. Rosenkvist says that Hayón was selected based on his bold suggestions and the strong concepts that he shared regarding his vision for the sofa. Rosenkvist also states that the partnership brought together the best of Southern and Northern European design expertise.

“My involvement in this design collaboration offered the opportunity to think in a holistic approach,” says Hayón. “We challenged the human side of things rather than the machine side. The design experience was truly a creative dialog that took all those involved back to the time and approach of Arne Jacobsen, one of Fritz Hansen’s great designers.”

Hayón wanted the design to be based around a shell, such as the company’s Egg and Swan products, which were originally designed by Jacobsen for the Royal Hall in Copenhagen. “A shell is hard on the outside and soft and welcoming on the inside,” he says. “The designs are also like a house—protective on the outside and warm on the inside. At the core, the design needed to be welcoming, inviting and beautiful from all angles.”

Hayón notes that the greatest challenge in designing FAVN was balancing all the curves and surfaces so that they worked together, in addition to making its extremely complex geometry appear light, easy and obvious. To reach the final design, Hayón and other team members worked with 1:1 scale models to guide their decision making.

The shell for FAVN—which means “embrace” in Danish—has two distinct parts: the base and a back shell. Both pieces are constructed from hard polyurethane foam with glass reinforcements; both also have embedded steel frames, and are assembled with six steel brackets and hex socket screws. The outsides of the pieces are covered with a thin, soft layer of polyurethane foam and wadding.

The four legs consist of three distinct parts: an upholstered trumpet that matches the base, a satin polished aluminum cylinder and a felt glide to protect the floor. The legs can be disassembled for recycling when the sofa has reached the end of its useful life, as can the steel used in FAVN’s frame. Sustainability is also addressed in the loose cushions, which can be granulated and reused.

FAVN comes in 10 colors, including dark blue, violet, red, black and clear beige. A mix of fabrics in each of the colors expresses the forms of the sofa’s three main components: the shell, seat back and cushions. “The textures define the sofa,” says Hayón. “The back is made with a thicker fabric to withstand resistance and to create support. The fabric for the seat back cushions is softer and the fabric for the small cushions is softer still. Together, the three textures make up strong visual layers that speak to an emotional experience as well as a rational design.”

And what was the most existing part about the design from Hayón’s perspective? He maintains that it was the chance to design a sofa that can be placed anywhere with no direction, like the Egg and the Swan. FAVN, for his part, is a democratic sofa that does not have any one style or purpose.

FAVN premiered at the International Furniture Fair 2011, and will be available in Fritz Hansen preferred dealer showrooms in the beginning of September. Company officials say that the response to date has been very strong and that sales forecasts are excellent. For more information, visit Fritz Hansen’s website at www.fritzhansen.com.


Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, Tenn. She was formerly a marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing and public relations needs. She can be reached at jwiens@bellsouth.net.