Gunnar Magnússon

Reykjavik, Iceland

Born in Olafsfjördur in northern Iceland in 1933, Gunnar Magnússon is a leading figure of Icelandic design. After graduating from the Reykjavik Polytechnic with a degree in cabinetmaking in 1955, he worked as a carpenter in Reykjavik and Copenhagen. He went on to study furniture and interior design at the Skolen for Brugskunst in Copenhagen, graduating in 1963. He began some relationships with Danish furniture producers and then returned to Reykjavik to open his own studio in 1964.

In comparison to the other Scandinavian countries, Iceland is known for producing designs characterized by a particular purity of form that favors function far more than styling. Magnússon’s designs embody this aesthetic perfectly, for example his Inka Chair for Nyvirki Ltd. (1963) and Apollo Chair for Kristján Siggeirsson (1967).

Through the course of his career, Magnússon designed furniture and interiors for offices, banks, homes, ships, and airplanes. Notably, Magnússon designed the chess table used in the infamous Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky World Chess Championship match held in Reykjavik in 1974. This set was made by cabinetmaker Ragnar Haraldson in mahogany, rosewood, and birch and included one game table and two nested side tables. Magnússon only allowed two later reproductions of the set made under his close supervision to raise money for the association.

In 2011, the Hönnunarsafn Museum of Design & Applied Art hosted a Gunnar Magnússon retrospective. 


* Images courtesy of Museum of Design and Applied Art