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Design Classic Stories: The Super-Elliptical™ Table

Piet Hein (1905-1996) was a Danish philosopher, poet and mathematician. A truly great mind, Piet Hein was unequivocal in his commitment to both the arts and science: indeed, he was like ‘a modern variant of Leonardo da Vinci.’ (Source: Piet Hein).

Portrait of Piet Hein.

The superellipse

A 1965 article in the periodical Scientific American, outlined Piet Hein’s approach to solving a city planning conundrum in Stockholm’s centre. The problem concerned facilitating the smooth flow of traffic around the planned Sergels Torg, a new central public square in the Swedish capital. Rejecting both elliptical and rectangular solutions for the ‘square’ as unworkable, the architects consulted with Piet Hein: his solution was the superellipse, ‘a happy blend of elliptical and rectangular beauty.’ (Source: Scientific American, September 1965 via Piet Hein).

Sergels Torg in Stockholm, Sweden (Image source).

The superellipse would inspire answers to architectural dilemmas in other regions around the world, as well as finding a practical application in furniture design. Swedish furniture designer and architect Bruno Mathsson adopted Piet Hein’s superellipse, designing a series of ‘Superellips‘ tables in 1964.

‘Superellips’ by Bruno Mathsson. Image © Bruno Mathsson International AB.

Super-Elliptical™ table

In collaboration with Bruno Mathsson and Arne Jacobsen, Piet Hein used the concept of the superellipse to create the Super-Elliptical™ table, a design put into production by Fritz Hansen in 1969. With its rather ingenious design philosophy—having no definite ends, the table is democratic and harmonious—the Super-Elliptical™ table welcomes all on equal terms.

The Super-Elliptical™ table in black laminate.

The Super-Elliptical™ table is available in a variety of sizes and finishes, with three bases: span legs (designed by Bruno Mathsson), and a pedestal or shaker base (designed by Arne Jacobsen).

Super-Elliptical™ in walnut veneer with shaker base.

Today, Fritz Hansen has given the Super-Elliptical™ table a high-tech makeover, adding a nanotechnology-based laminate tabletop. In 2017, this handsome classic by Piet Hein, Bruno Mathsson and Arne Jacobsen, remains entirely covetable, relevant and democratic.

B620 Super-Elliptical™ table in white laminate with white span legs.
B612 Super-Elliptical™ table.
B612 Super-Elliptical™
B612 Super-Elliptical™ table.
B612 Super-Elliptical™ table in black laminate with black span legs.
Super-Elliptical™ table in grey laminate.

All images © Republic of Fritz Hansen (except where noted otherwise).

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