Arne Jacobsen

by Nadja Bozovic

Arne Jacobsen

Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen is considered to be one of the pioneers of Danish minimalist style and modern furniture design. Design and Architecture were his two huge loves and he developed and applied his skills carefully in everything he did. His refined sense for proportion and form was what made him famous.

As a professor at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where he had also graduated at the Architecture Department in 1927, he influenced the whole generation of Danish architects and introduced the spirit of modernism into constructing and interior design. It was his contribution that Scandinavian design became famous for its functionality, clear lines and simplicity.

Peculiar Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen had a flawless sense for form but he didn’t determine anything in advance during his work. He had neither previously created plan nor his established creative process. He always started from the main idea he had imagined. Only then he would continue to develop a project depending on the technology and materials that he would use.

Arne sometimes gave an undefined instructions so he is also remembered for unusual sentences like “As thin as possible and never in the middle“, “Today, we have to make a truly low/round project“, “How things have been behaving today?“, as if the objects were alive. No matter what, he would devote himself completely to every idea until he materialized it and was satisfied with the outcome. 

That reflected in his relations with colleagues in his studio as well. Often contradictory but unusually persistent and consistent in his work, Arne Jacobsen was very demanding when it came to work. He often expected his staff to work almost day and night.  He had a high level of commitment to work and was often away from home because of that. Whenever he came back from the studio, he expected a complete order and piece from his family. 

People used to call him the uncertain designer because of that approach and the lack of fixed work pattern. It was a far from true statement. Jacobsen knew very well what he was doing even though he didn’t plan in advance. 

His self-confidence and certainty of his own deeds were never questioned. He relied on intuition. Arne always trusted his feelings when it came to work. He was simply a perfectionist. Therefore he often delayed finishing the work in order to make everything perfect before revealing it.

Fifty Years of Rich Career

During his studies, Arne Jacobsen won a silver medal for his chair design at the Paris World’s Fair in 1925. It determined his further career in a way, since he became recognizable for the unique chair design. Each of his chairs was telling its own story. They were elegant, functional, unique and shaped like a sculpture.  

After finishing studies, he began working as an intern in the City Architecture Office of Copenhagen where he stayed for the following two years.  During that time he projected and designed musical pavilion in the city park and several private, family houses. He also won a gold medal in the category of young architects for the National Museum’s project.  

Independent Designer

He opened his architect studio in 1929 and since then the exponential growth and development of his career started. He also began designing chairs at the time, for which he became famous and highly appreciated among colleagues and interior design admirers. 

Jacobsen and Flemming Lessen projected and designed The House of the Future together. Exclusively for that project Arne Jacobsen created the so called Basket Chair. Soon after that he created the Easy Chair, a chair for his own home. 

During 1930s he dedicated himself to designing complex solutions such as blocks of flats and more complex projects. One such was the 1934 Bellavista Housing Estate, for which he received an award from the Gentofte Borough . 

Novo Therapeutic Laboratory was also an interesting project made for the Novo Nordisk pharmaceutical company for whom he also projected their first business complexes. The next interesting venture was Bellevue Theater and Restaurant in Danish town of Klampenborg. He designed chairs and other interior objects especially for their interior. 

During almost 50 years of rich career Jacobsen designed dozens of private homes as well as numerous public objects including dorms, kindergartens, sport centers, theaters, terraced houses, residential buildings, but also did park designs, other public spaces among which was Bellevue Beach in Klampenborg for which he also designed  kiosks, changing cabins, showers, lifeguard houses and sales stands.

Unrivalled Architectural Buildings 

Arne Jacobsen was able to finish projects in one year for which his colleagues needed even couple of years. That’s how he made some great historic buildings for which he became famous as an extraordinary architect and designer. When he took on a project he would invest his entire being, take care of every single detail and give form to everything. Most often he designed interiors for each of his architectural solutions and he used to do it with same devotion to every project.

For example in that way he projected SAS Royal Hotel building in Copenhagen. It was the first tall building in the city for which he found an inspiration in New York’s skyscrapers. Besides the entire building he designed all hotel’s furniture, lighting, cutlery, door handles, sanitary elements, upholstery fabrics and wallpaper patterns. Long after that he was hotel’s main designer. 

Another among many great projects in which he participated, was the building of the National Bank in Copenhagen. The project lasted from 1965 until 1971 and he took part in it both as an architect and an interior and furniture designer. 

Arne Jacobsen and Fritz Hensen

In 1934, Arne Jacobsen started collaboration with one of the most famous furniture manufacturers from Denmark. It was the Fritz Hensen Company popular for its high quality and original furniture design. Still, their collaboration made Arne Jacobsen’s furniture famous and wanted worldwide only 20 years after.

During 1950’s Jacobsen began designing chairs exclusively for Fritz Hensen. They represent the outline of modern design even today and decorate numerous homes and working spaces around the world for which Fritz Hensen is still an exclusive agent globally.  

It all began with the Ant chair that Jacobsen designed in 1952 and continued with the evolutionary Series 7 from 1955. Other chairs followed like 3102, 3103, 3105, Series 3300 and then came Chair 3140 later named the Grand Prix chair because Jacobsen got the Grand Prix Award for it at the 1957 Milano Triennial XI.

In the following year already Arne designed one of his most famous chairs – the Egg. Shortly after that the Swan chair followed. He designed both chairs for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. 

During 1959, Drop and Pot chairs entered the production process, and in 1960’s a production of chairs from series Oxford, Oksen and 3108 and 3208 chairs started. Series 3600 began in 1970. That rounded the heritage of Arne Jacobsen when it comes to designing chairs for Fritz Hensen Company. He died in March in 1971. 

An Urbanist in Love With Nature

Arne Jacobsen was impulsive, demanding, untouchable and temperamental. He was also friendly, warm and always with a sense of humor, often joking about himself. Arne was a great aesthete. He exaggerated in it sometimes, but he also knew that he needed to get away from everything from time to time.  “I’m chocking in aesthetics sometimes”, he used to say. Then he would turn to nature. He liked to paint with watercolor ever since he was a child, to look at color spreading on canvas, trying not to affect that. He let the paint inter-flow the canvas making its own picture. That was his way to rest and move from every day work in urban surroundings even though urbanistic development was his passion. Arne Jacobsen’s architectural and designer work became both national and international heritage and made him a star of 20th century modern design.

Featured image: Arne Jacobsen by Anonimus [Public domain]



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