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Arne Jacobsen

 

Arne Emil Jacobsen, usually known as Arne Jacobsen, (11 February 1902 – 24 March 1971) was a Danish architect and designer. He is remembered for contributing so much to architectural Functionalism as well as for the worldwide success he enjoyed with simple but effective chair designs.

He first hoped to become a painter but was dissuaded by his father who encouraged him to opt instead for the more secure domain of architecture. After a spell as an apprentice mason, Jacobsen was admitted to the Architecture School at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where from 1924 to 1927 he studied under Kay Fisker and Kaj Gottlob, both leading architects and designers.

Still a student, in 1925 Jacobsen participated in the Paris Art Deco fair, Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, where he won a silver medal for a chair design. On that trip, he was struck by the pioneering aesthetic of Le Corbusier’s L’Esprit Nouveau pavilion. Before leaving the Academy, Jacobsen also travelled to Germany, where he became acquainted with the rationalist architecture of Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. Their work influenced his early designs including his graduation project, an art gallery, which won him a gold medal.  After completing architecture school, he first worked at city architect Poul Holsøe’s architectural practice.

With the SAS Royal Hotel, built from 1956 to 1960, Jacobsen was given the opportunity to design what has been called “the world’s first designer hotel”.  He designed everything from the building and its furniture and fittings to the ashtrays sold in the souvenir shop and the airport buses.

These larger assignments started to attract attention and commissions from abroad. Rødovre Town Hall secured him an invitation for his first competition in Germany which was followed by a number of other German projects.

A delegation of Oxford dons visited the SAS Hotel and the Munkegård School in their search for an architect for St. Catherine’s College. They were soon convinced he was the right choice for their important commission.  Again Jacobsen designed everything, including the garden, down to the choice of fish species for the pond. The dining hall is notable for its Cumberland slate floor. The original college buildings received a Grade I listing on 30 March 1993.

In 1929, in collaboration with Flemming Lassen, he won a Danish Architect’s Association competition for designing the “House of the Future” which was built full scale at the subsequent exhibition in Copenhagen’s Forum. It was a spiral-shaped, flat-roofed house in glass and concrete, incorporating a private garage, a boathouse and a helicopter pad. Other striking features were windows that rolled down like car windows, a conveyor tube for the mail and a kitchen stocked with ready-made meals.   A Dodge Cabriolet Coupé was parked in the garage, there was a Chris Craft in the boathouse and an Autogyro on the roof.  The name Jacobsen immediately became recognised as an ultra-modern architect.

Today, Arne Jacobsen is remembered primarily for his furniture designs. However, he believed he was first and foremost an architect. According to Scott Poole, a professor at Virginia Tech, Arne Jacobsen never used the word ‘designer’, notoriously disliking it.

His way into product design came through his interest in Gesamtkunst and most of his designs which later became famous in their own right were created for architectural projects. Most of his furniture designs were the result of a cooperation with the furniture manufacturer with which he initiated a collaboration in 1934 while his lamps and light fixtures were developed with Louis Poulsen. In spite of his success with his chair at the Paris Exhibition in 1925, it was during the 1950s that his interest in furniture design peaked.

A major source of inspiration stemmed from the bent plywood designs of Charles and Ray Eames. He was also influenced by the Italian design historian Ernesto Rogers, who had proclaimed that the design of every element was equally important “from the spoon to the city” which harmonized well with his own ideals.

In 1951, he created the Ant chair for an extension of the Novo pharmaceutical factory and, in 1955, came the Seven Series. Both matched modern needs perfectly, being light, compact and easily stackable. Two other successful chair designs, the Egg and the Swan, were created for the SAS Royal Hotel in 1957.

Other designs were made for Stelton, a company founded by his foster son Peter Holmbl. These include the now classic Cylinda Line stainless steel cocktail kit and tableware.

Other interior design is a line of faucets and accessories for bathroom and kitchen,created after he won a competition in 1961 for his design of the National Bank of Denmark. This classic design is still in production today by Danish company Vola.

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