Arne Jacobsen is one of Denmark's most famous architects and designers of the 20th century. He has contributed to design and architecture for many years, and was one of the big names behind the Danish modernism. Some of his most famous design chairs are inspired by nature. Both the 'Egg' and the 'Swan' combines functional chair design with the Scandinavian penchant for nature. Some of his most famous architectural achievements include the residential complex Bella Vista and the Bellevue Theatre.
The architect was born in Copenhagen
Arne Jacobsen was born February 11th, 1902 in Copenhagen. Here he was raised by his father, Johan, who was a wholesale distributor of safety pins and his mother, Pouline, who was a bank teller, but who used her spare time painting floral paintings. At first his mind was set on becoming an artist, but his father encouraged him to choose the safer path and become an architect.
After being apprenticed as a bricklayer, he was admitted to architectural studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts. There he studied from 1924 to 1927 under two prominent architects and designers: Kay Fisker and Kaj Gottlob. This was the beginning of a long career in architecture and designs.
Debut in Paris
Already in 1925 while he was still studying, he participated in L’Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris, which was an exhibition of contemporary and decorative arts. Here he won a silver medal for a chair design, and was thus already then recognized as a talented designer, although he was still a student.
Inspired by other great architects
However, a silver medal was not the only thing he brought home with him. At this exhibition he was deeply inspired by Le Corbusier, who was later acknowledged as one of the leading designers in modern architecture.
In this early period of his design career, he was inspired by some architects who gave inspiration to his early designs, including his graduation project. Among other things, he was inspired by the rationalists Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius, on a trip to Germany. After completing his studies in 1927, Arne Jacobsen started working at Poul Holsøe's design studio, after which his long and exciting career began to take shape.
Arne Jacobsen started by designing houses
He started his career by designing private residences. Here he had the opportunity to combine rationalism, which he had become aware of through Mies van der Rohe and Gropius, with the simple Scandinavian style. In 1929 he won a competition, together with Flemming Lassen, to design the future house. The house was designed as a cement spiral with a flat glass roof. It had, among other things, windows that could be rolled down, like car windows, and a helicopter pad.
Although they won the competition with the design of this house, which still today appear very futuristic, the angular shape and straight lines of functionalism, was still new and unfamiliar to the general public. This type of architecture was considered cold, hard and impersonal. However, the more wealthy part of the population liked the style of the young architect, and therefore he continued to design many houses for private people.
Architect at his first public building
After designing private houses for a number of years, he won his first public project. He was asked to renew the beach area at Bellevue. In 1935, one of his most famous buildings stands ready. These are the Bellavista apartment buildings in Klampenborg, which has now become one of the major features of the Danish Modernism.
Fled to Sweden during World War 2
During World War II, it becomes more difficult to obtain the right materials to build the houses which Arne Jacobsen designed. In addition, he had to flee to Sweden, since he, as Jew, feared staying in Denmark during the Nazi occupation. This meant, that he from 1943 and the following two years, was living in exile in Sweden, where he primarily was focused on designing wallpaper and fabrics. He returned to Denmark after the war ended in 1945.
At this point there was a great need to create public buildings and new houses. This is evident in the houses and apartment buildings, which Arne Jacobsen designed in this period. They had a very simple design without too many frills. However, in the 1950s he starts more experimental projects. From this period can, among others, be mentioned Alléhusene and Søholm.
Increasing interest in furniture design
Throughout the 1950s, Arne Jacobsen also got a growing interest in furnishing and furniture design, where he found great inspiration from Charles and Ray Eames. Thus, in 1951 he designed the 'Ant' chair, which would be one of the chairs that gave him one of the truly great breakthroughs.
The 'Ant' was in 1955 followed by the equally famous series 3107. The chairs fits perfectly into a modern lifestyle, since the chairs are compact and can be stacked, and at the same time are elegant and in a beautiful design. 'Series 7' chair is available in a wide range of colours and different types of wood such as maple, beech, ash and cherry. You can buy many different versions of the 'Series 7' chair, among others, with a a hight-adjustable swivel, with a low or high bar stool base and with matching armrests. This chair is seen in a multitude of Danish homes, and has become a true classic. The chair was among others also seen in the BBC TV-series 'EastEnders'. Furthermore, he also designed sofas, including the 'Swan' sofa which matches the chair, in 1958.
Designed the SAS Royal Hotel – including the furniture
However, there were many more great designs from Arne Jacobsen. In 1958, he designed the very beautiful and popular chairs: The 'Swan' and the 'Egg'. They were designed for SAS Royal Hotel, which in 2009 was renamed Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, which is its current name. Arne Jacobsen also designed the hotel itself, and was thus with this project given the opportunity to combine both his designs and his architecture. This created quite innovative results.
The design gems the 'Egg' and the 'Swan'
The 'Egg' is probably the most famous of Arne Jacobsen's chairs. This chair was produced in 1958, but is still a great classic in both Danish and international homes. Arne Jacobsen used a brand new technique to design the chair, with a strong inner shell of foam under the padding. It is believed that he found great inspiration in Eero Saarinen´s ”Womb chair”, which has some of the same features.
Just like the 'Egg', his 'Swan' chair has also become a great classic. It was quite an innovation at the time, since it only has curves and thus no straight lines. This design soon became highly recognized and it quickly became a very prestigious chair. Which it still is today. The chair can be used for a variety of purposes as it is elegant and still extremely comfortable to sit in.
Both the 'Egg' and the 'Swan' has been used in a variety of contexts, from hotel lobbies to décor at McDonald's on Nørrebrogade and National Bank of Denmark. Both chairs are available in a variety of colours and materials, so there is something for everyone.
He is also behind the very popular AJ lamps, both ceiling, table and wall lamps.
The design of Cylinda-Line for Stelton in the late 1960s
Arne Jacobsen does not only design chairs. In the late 1960s, he designs another classic, namely Cylinda-Line, which was produced for Stelton. It was his plan to produce a series of tea and coffee set, bowl and equipment like ice buckets and jugs for the drinks cabinet. It took him three years to complete this series. Cylinda-Line was exclusively made of stainless steel and immediately got great attention because of material and form choice, which was in great contrast to what else characterized the market at that time. In 1967, this series won the ID prize.
Danish icon in architecture and design
Arne Jacobsen was from the 1950s and onwards, one of Denmark's great icons in architecture and design. His extremely modern and uncompromising approach to design quickly became known and admired throughout the world. His techniques were new and exciting and has become a symbol of modernism. Therefore, the various designs also remains extremely popular today and can be found anywhere in the world.
He is recognized throughout the world and by great designers. Among other things, R. Craig Miller, who is the author of “Design 1935-1989” says, that Jacobsen's work “is an important and original contribution to both modernism and to the specific place Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries have in the modern movement”. He continues, that much of the modern style that Scandinavia stands for, perhaps would have been completely lost and forgotten, had it not been for designers and architects such as Arne Jacobsen, who manages to add a human touch.
Arne Jacobsen's special proportioning in furniture and architecture
One of the things he has become particularly well known for is his distinguished proportioning. This applies in both his architecture and in his designs. He has thought about every single detail and how the different elements fit together. He himself has said: "The primary is proportioning. It is precisely proportioning which makes the ancient Greek temples classic in their beauty. [...] And whether you look at a building from the Baroque, Renaissance or from the present - the ones you want to look at, the ones you admire, they are all well proportioned, it is absolutely critical. "
Sudden farewell at the age of 69
Arne Jacobsen died suddenly on March 24th, 1971. He was 69 years old. He was in the middle of many different projects at this time. Some of these were the town hall in Mainz in Germany, the National Bank of Denmark and the Royal Danish Embassy in London. After his death, his design studio was taken over by Hans Dissing and Otto Weitling (D + W), who had previously been loyal employees. They also continued working on the unfinished projects.