Piet Hein (1905-1996) was a Danish mathematician, inventor, designer, author, and poet, often writing under the Old Norse pseudonym "Kumbel". He studied at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Copenhagen, and Technical University of Denmark.For Piet Hein there was no unbridgeable gap between the subjectivity of the fine arts and the objective world of science. Throughout life he grew and expressed himself both as an artist and a scientist. He has been called a universalist. Some people have very aptly called his working method architectural poetic design.
After World War II, Scandinavian architects, tired of square buildings but cognizant that circular buildings were impractical, asked Piet Hein for a solution. Applying his mathematical prowess to the problem, Piet Hein proposed to use the superellipse which became the hallmark of modern Scandinavian architecture. He advocated the use of the superellipse curve in city planning, furniture making and other realms.
The "Superellipse": a curve that lies between the ellipse and the rectangle.
Parallel to his poetic work, Piet Hein decided to find an absolutely harmonic physical design. With mathematical intuition he first found the form and then explained it afterwards. His superellipse was to solve the double contrast between the circle and the square and that of the ellipse and the rectangle.
Within furniture design the superellipse also became the solution to various problems, especially in relation to Piet Hein's design of tabletops the superellipse became popular. In a three-dimensional version the superellipse became the superegg which has been used for metal versions of various board games, superegg drink coolers and the anti-stress ball.
Piet Hein's superellipse has been enthusiastically adopted by Bruno Mathsson. He first produced a variety of superelliptical desks, now in the offices of many Swedish executives, and has since followed with superelliptical tables, chairs and beds. (Who needs the corners?)
Bruno Mathsson (1907-1988) was a Swedish furniture designer and architect with ideas colored by functionalism/modernism, as well as old Swedish crafts tradition. Being the son of a carpenter in the town of Värnamo in the South of Sweden, it was fairly obvious what work the young Bruno would choose. After a short time of education in school, he started to work in his father's gallery. He soon found a great interest in furniture and especially chairs, their function and design.
He also designed houses in Sweden, Portugal and in the United States with frameworks of glass and steel.