Visiting the Copenhagen studio of award-winning designer Cecilie Manz to uncover the thoughts and ideas behind her Workshop design for Muuto, combining the values of Scandinavian craftsmanship with a modernly understated expression.
Cecilie Manz’ studio in the heart of Copenhagen is divided into four spaces, each with a separate street entrance. The first space is where Manz’ team works, the second serves as a workshop for making models and testing new ideas, the third is a combined meeting and kitchen area where the team discusses projects, have communal lunches and meet with collaborators (a lot of Manz’ creations are present here as well, including her Workshop and Compile designs for Muuto) and the last door leads into Manz’ own workspace.
An abundance of natural light is flowing into the room where Manz is seated in the Workshop Chair with a 1:1 model of that very design next to her. Speaking on how the design came to be, Manz says: “I’ve always believed that you shouldn’t be afraid of doing something that’s quiet; something that isn’t about making noise in one way or the other. That’s where the initial idea for the Workshop Chair came from.”
In 2015, Cecilie Manz was asked by the MINDCRAFT-exhibition for Milan Design Week to contribute with a design, the only condition being that it should be a wooden chair. From there, Manz headed into her workshop and began modelling her vision for the design: “I like to approach my design process in a somewhat intense way, spending all my time in the workshop on that one single design from start to finish. I think the Workshop Chair took around two weeks from initial idea to the final model,” she says.
After having made the Workshop Chair in a 1:1 model of cardboard and foam, Manz’ team drew up the design on the computer and worked with a carpenter on the final, physical version. “If you compared the chair that I exhibited at MINDCRAFT with the actual Workshop Chair today, you’d hardly see any difference: The subtle details of its joinery, the crisp veneer, the curved seat and back—it’s all there,” she notes.
The Workshop Chair is available in Oak, Black Lacquered Oak and Oregon Pine. On the materiality of the design, Manz says: “The original design was made in Oregon Pine. It’s one of my favorite materials to work with. It is at once soft, light and warm and follows the ideas of silent expressionism in the Workshop Chair.”
“To me personally, the Workshop Chair is exactly how I’d want a wooden chair: Simple, quiet and modest, adding an understated character to its surroundings while taking up close to no space visually and physically,” explains Manz. Examining the chair further, she expands: “I wanted for the design to have a sense of familiarity, allowing you to feel intuitively at ease with it. The idea was to make it just archetypal enough for it to be relatable for anyone. The Workshop Chair didn’t need any explanation: it does the explaining on its own.”
In the spring of 2018, a Workshop Coffee Table was added to the series, translating the refined craftsmanship and subtle detail into a new context.