Arne Jacobsen – Legendary Danish Designer & Architect

 The legendary Danish designer and architect Arne Jacobsen is famous for some truly inspiring design classics. He is seen as one of the pioneers of “modern functionalism” and for developing the “Danish Modern style” (part of the mid-20th century Danish design movement) along with other pioneers like Finn Juhl.

Arne Jacobsen (1902 - 1971)

He was really passionate about the idea that great design & architecture was all about integration. He has many firsts to his name but the creation of the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen stands as the first true Designer Hotel. From his work on the project, not only do we get the iconic architecture but some true design classics, not least the Swan & Egg chairs.

His design style is most recognised as being all about a really clean, organic shape with a big emphasis on function. Although an architect, most people would associate him with his chair designs:

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Ant Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen (photo from Corporate Culture)

 In 1952 he designed the Ant Chair (or Myren in Danish) that was manufactured by Fritz Hansen. I love that he designed it with 1 front leg to help minimise the chance of people getting their feet tangled. It is this amazing attention to the smallest details that sets him apart.

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Swan Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen (photo by Corporate Culture)

 In 1958, as part of his integrated design & architecture of the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, he created the Swan Chair(again manufactured by Fritz Hansen) for the lobby and lounge areas. What was so unusual at the time is the introduction of this free flow style of design – there are no straight lines, it is all about curves.

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Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen (photo by Corporate Culture)

 Alongside the Swan is the Egg Chair also for lobby and lounge areas of the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. At the time this was hugely innovative and he was the first to use the new technique of a strong foam inner shell, covered by the upholstery.

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Traditional Wingback Chair

For me, what is so clever about the design, is that it allows a sense of privacy whilst sitting in the hotel lobby. Unlike the traditional Wingback chair, the Egg has a much more organic feel and adds a really contemporary feel to the space. It was designed specifically to sit in the space and with one look at the curve of the sweeping staircase and you see just how good he is.

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Current interior shot of Royal Hotel Copenhagen with Arne Jacobsen's Egg chairs beside his signature curving staircase Vintage photo of Royal Hotel Copenhagen's lobby

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What I am in awe about, is that he has such incredible attention to detail when it comes to design. It is only when you look closer at his work on the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen that you realize his creative vision is everywhere to be seen… It isn’t just about the hotel itself, his design for the lobby or the top floor restaurant… he is responsible for literally everything: the taps, door handles, even the cutlery used in the restaurant!

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AJ Lever Door Handle by Arne Jacobsen

Cutlery or Flatware by Arne Jacobsen for Georg Jensen

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I find it amazing that this flat wear looks contemporary even by today’s standards. Again I love its clean, no-frills style – I think this is a really sophisticated design. Clearly I am not alone as Stanley Kubrick used the cutlery in his Sci-Fi masterpiece: 2001 a space odyssey.

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Screen Shot - 2001 Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick (1968) visible Arne Jacobsens cutlery

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It is amazing to think that whilst so much innovation in design was going on in the mid 20th century that taps were left untouched. Now adays we take the mixer for granted and left in the design shadows. Verner Overgaard of Vola Tapware realised that there was a way to simplify the tap design. In essence, why have a balancing act of twisting knobs to get just the right temperature when a simple leaver could control both flow and temperature. He had the idea but he needed someone to turn the vision into reality – enter stage left Arne Jacobsen and his award winning design the KV1 tap.

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KV1 mixer by Arne Jacobsen for Vola

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I love his work. What sets him apart for me is that throughout he has stayed true to his core belief, that real beauty lies in the integration of an elegant form with a defined purpose. He is unafraid of simplicity in his design. He doesn’t try and distract with bells & whistles. I love the free flow curves that add something special to all his pieces. More than 50 year on and still his designs hold their own.

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