The Alvar Aalto 400 Tank Armchair

The Alvar Aalto 400 Tank armchair sets itself immediately apart from the previous designs of the architect; usually light in weight. However, with the 400, Aalto decided to emphasise mass and the appearance of solidity.

He wanted to make a clear statement about the actual range of physical possibilities that his laminated wooden furniture were capable of dealing with.
As with the majority of his pieces, also for the 400 Tank armchair design Aalto used laminated wood in its construction. Ten sheets of birch veneer were glued together and set around a mould to obtain the wide, curved and cantilevered strips that provide an open frame to both sides of the bulky-type seat and back.

The strips are wider than in other Aalto’s seats, to support the underlying massive shape of the 400 Tank armchair but also to provide added strength as the centre of gravity is low and far back. At the junction of the arm and back, the downward-pointing binding terminals of the laminated strips help give an overall rigidity to the design by preventing excessive side to side flexing.

This specific detail sets the Aalto 400 Tank armchair apart from other of his designs as the 406, where the arm laminated strips end in a upward curl. Even if it’s a small difference, it also is a peculiar aesthetic element of the armchair design and proves Aalto’s attention to details.

In the 400 Tank chair, the strips are wider than in other Aalto’s seats to support its underlying massive shape.
(photo via 1stdibs)

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The downward-pointing binding terminals of the laminated strips of the Aalto 400 Tank chair, help give an overall rigidity to the design.
(photo via 1stdibs)

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The small details make the 400 Tank chair unique compared to previous Alvar Aalto's designs.
(photo via GoogleImages)

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The Case Study House n.16 showcased several Aalto's pieces, including the 400 Tank chair.
(photo from the Case Study House book)

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