Norwegian furniture designer and interior architect Gerhard Berg is a key contributor to the warmly sleek, midcentury Scandinavian modernist aesthetic. While roughly contemporary with designers Finn Juhl, Hans J. Wegner, and Arne Jacobsen (and more locally, with Norwegians Ingmar Relling, Sigurd Ressell, and Frederik Keyser), Berg notably set himself apart by favoring high-tech materials like fiberglass over handcrafted wood.
Born in 1927, Berg was raised provincially, on Volda farmland, before moving to Oslo at age 19 to pursue the creative arts. Dabbling first in lithography, Berg shifted his focus to furniture in 1949, when he enrolled in the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry (SHKS). During his time at SHKS, Berg studied under the venerated architect Arne Korsmo, whose signature villas Damman (1933) and Stenersen (ca. 1937-1938) echoed the colors and forms of early modernists like Le Corbusier, Bruno Taut, and the German Erich Medelsohn. Berg absorbed the general approach of progressive modernism—rationally conceived, sensibly proportioned, expertly crafted—and soon after his 1953 graduation, he began designing in the same vein. His design career took off with his icicle-patterned Varia Sofa for Vatne Møbler (1954), which could be purchased in sections and largely appealed to a younger, space-conscious crowd. He followed up this success with the rose-colored Florida Chair for Vatne (1954), which used foam rubber to achieve a shape and slant that prequels the polystyrene curves of Kerstin Hörlin-Holmquist’s Paradiset Collection, designed, for Nordiska Kompaniet, a few years later).
Through the following years, Berg flitted his design activity between a variety of Norwegian manufacturers, beginning with the relatively obscure Hareid Bruk, for whom he designed his Gjende Armchair (1955) and Giske Armchair (1958) armchairs. Other stops on Berg’s CV include the Japenese-influenced 1800 series for P.I. Langlo (1959); the teak-framed Norse series for L.K Hjelle (1962); and a variety of pieces for Stokke—most saliently, the Caro Armchair (1957), which adorned a number of Norwegian public buildings, and the Marina Armchair (1960), a wider version of his earlier Sande H prototype for Hareid Bruk, which was used in 1962 Scandinavian Airlines advertising campaigns.
Berg continued to design for Stokke into the 1960s, which incidentally framed the coda of his career. No new work would stem from the designer until 2010, when Northern Lighting produced Berg, a series of sandblasted and transparent acrylic light pieces, drawn by Berg in the late 1950s. The following year saw manufacturer Aksel Hansson’s braided seaweed-edit of Berg’s Aks Chair for Stokke (ca. 1962)—the first order of which came from Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit, for her newly built Seamen’s Church in Miami.