A statue of Mercury cast in bronze has graced the historic Oslo Stock Exchange for more than 100 years, symbolizing wealth, good fortune and commerce. As part of the major rehabilitation project by Tuvalu architects, the statue has reassumed a central position in the interior layout. The Merkur chair, created for the building and named for its symbolic figure, populates an updated, central stock exchange and joins the MENU design collection.
Oslo Stock Exchange history goes back to 1823 when the architect Christian H. Grosch's proposal was accepted for construction. The building project was an exceptional undertaking, completed on the site of Grønningen, the first public park in Christiania. On its completion in 1828, Oslo Stock Exchange was called Norway's first monumental building.
The structure was extended in 1910 by architect Carl Michaelsen, executed in the Empire style with added elements of Neoclassicism. Over the next one hundred years, the Oslo Stock Exchange underwent many changes, both operationally and aesthetically. It evolved from a commodity exchange to a marketplace for shares and securities. Some of its interior spaces have remained well-preserved historic rooms featuring a broad mix of materials, ornamentation and symbolic elements. Other rooms were repeatedly converted, especially in the 1980s.
In 2019, Norweigan architecture firm Tuvalu was chosen to lead the total rehabilitation of the stock exchange, a large-scale modernization with respect to the building’s origin and future. Designers Petter Skogstad and Fredrik Wærnes of Skogstad & Wærnes were asked to design a chair for the new exchange, a core element to the function and visual identity of the interior.
As the Oslo Stock Exchange is, in fact, the only Nordic stock exchange in the Euronext portfolio, it was important for the chair design to reflect Norwegian as well as Nordic identity. The interconnection between Nordic countries and design posed the obvious question ‘What is Nordic design?’ What followed was an examination of the distinct features of Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finish and Icelandic, as well as the Faroe, Greenlandic, and Ålandic design.
Handcraft and transparent construction, common to Nordic design traditions, became important. Honest joinery was important to the design construction, an element of traditional Norwegian craft as well as Danish design. The goal was a classic and modern design with character, a difficult harmony to achieve but an interesting design challenge for Skogstad & Wærnes.
“We wanted the chair to be a kind of tribute to the historic chairs within the building,” says Wærnes.
Old fiddle back chairs from historic photographs of the Oslo Stock Exchange were a key reference in the design process. Playing with this inspiration allowed the design to take shape as a historical link to the Oslo Stock Exchange with modern soul. Petter Skogstad and Fredrik Wærnes wanted this chair to be both specific to the site while also possessing the power to fit other contexts. They pursued a design that could move beyond its intended space into private homes, businesses and cultural sites internationally.
Beautiful carpentry, honest joinery and elements from traditional Norwegian and Nordic design styles combine to exude subtle strength and confidence. Solid wood construction and the fiddle backrest make the chair historically rooted and forward-facing, while the curved backrest and arms make it comfortable and supportive. Aesthetically, the size and proportions of the Merkur chair design make it traditional yet contemporary, expressive but not messy.
Naturally, this chair is also deeply connected to the Oslo Stock Exchange, referencing the buildings’ previous chairs and complimenting its architectural character. To this effect, the first Merkur chairs produced have been numbered 1-100 and sit on the Oslo Stock Exchange floor where they support trade and commerce daily.
The Merkur launches January 2023 in solid oak and black painted oak, with and without armrests.