Exploring the legacy of Danish modernists.
Arne Jacobsen is perhaps the most famous Danish architect and designer of the modernist era. The objects of his authorship are well recognizable; they were ahead of their time, included in design textbooks and are often found in modern interiors.
Jacobsen’s first known work was a wicker chair for the 1925 Paris exhibition Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.
Then Jacobsen was engaged in the construction of facilities in the resort area near Copenhagen. The designer has designed beach towers, gas stations, buildings and restaurants of the resort (including furniture), as well as facilities for the Novo pharmaceutical factory.
In the 1950s, he was inspired by American extruded plywood technology. Objects made in this technique look very sculptural. Hence the nicknames-associations: “Ant” (Ant), “Language” (Tongue), “Seagull” (Seagull). The design of these chairs allows them to be separated from the base, changing, for example, legs to casters.
Jacobsen’s legendary project is the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. It is a skyscraper in which everything – from architecture and furniture to window frames, lamps, carpets and even cutlery – was designed by Jacobsen himself. Today, the details of the hotel’s furnishings can be studied as an encyclopedia of design: chairs “Egg” and “Swan”, chairs “Drop” and “Giraffe”, armchair and sofa “Airport” – all of these items were designed for SAS Royal.
Another Jacobsen project is St Catherine’s College, Oxford. The Oxford chair, armchairs and dormitory tables were designed for him.
Architect Paul Henningshe grew up in a bohemian environment, worked as a writer and publicist, wrote a column in a newspaper. He had no architectural education.
He presented his first items at the exhibition “Your Home” in Copenhagen in 1931. At that time they did not enjoy success, but time put everything in its place: chairs made of bent tubes are recognized as masterpieces of world design. For example, the Snake chair is on display at the MOMA Museum in New York.
Henningsen went down in design history as the author of luminaires with an unusual reflective shade structure, thanks to which the bulb is hidden from view from all sides. The fact is that Henningsen, like many of his contemporaries, longed for kerosene lamps and did not recognize electric light, considering it too harsh and unpleasant. The first lamp designed in this way, the Paris Lamp, was exhibited in Paris in 1925.
From the late 1920s to the late 1950s Henningsen designs dozens of similar luminaires in aluminum and glass, the most famous of which are the PH 5 and Artichoke.
Kaare Klint is an iconic figure in the world of Danish design: in 1920 he opened a furniture design department at the Copenhagen Academy of Arts. Most Danish furniture designers in the 1950s are apprentices or apprentices of Clint’s apprentices.
Clint’s own work does not belong to modernism – rather, he is a traditional designer. In his designs, the designer always started from neo-classicism of the early 20th century and rethought the tradition: not inventing new designs, but improving and correcting the existing ones. In fact, he cut off everything unnecessary, simplified and reduced the number of parts. As a result, the form began to coincide with the function, which turned out to be consonant with the philosophy of the then avant-garde Bauhaus.
The most famous furniture models are Faaborg and Safari chairs, corrugated origami lamps, compact sofas and Voltaire armchairs.
Cabinetmaker Hans Wegner began his career in the 1930s as a collaborator at the Arne Jacobsen architectural firm. He constantly participated in furniture exhibitions, where he was noticed by the Americans, and over time became the most famous Danish designer in America.
As a true craftsman, he works out every detail in detail and looks more like a sculptor than a designer. His most famous works include the Peacock, Ox and Dolphin chairs, as well as the Shell, Wishbone and Jack chairs ( Valet). The Getama chair was one of the first models to feature cushions.
Another artisan “sculptor” is Finn Yul. He studied at the Royal Academy of Copenhagen, designed furniture and participated in exhibitions.
His work was not immediately accepted by the Danish public. Unlike his colleagues, Yul gravitated towards surrealism and organic forms, which seemed too effective against the background of the strictly verified and rational works of other modernists. Contemporaries laughed at the unusual forms of furniture, which were based on anatomical contours; Finn Juhl himself said that “a comfortable chair for a person must itself be a person.”
Due to the cold reception of critics until the 50s, Finn Juhl was considered a “second tier” designer in Denmark. However, the situation was again influenced by the Americans. Yule’s work has been exhibited at the Georg Jensen showroom in New York and is very popular with the community. The designer was invited to design the furnishings of the Danish embassy and one of the halls of the UN headquarters in New York.
Yul has worked extensively with Scandinavian Airlines, designing the interiors of the cabins and terminals. He also participated in the design of exhibitions of Scandinavian designers. The most famous pieces of furniture of that time were the Pelikan and Grasshopper chairs, the Egyptian and Chieftain chairs, and several soft sofas: Wall, Baker, 46 and striking examples of cabinet furniture. For his own home, the designer designed the organic Poet sofa. It was conceived so short especially so that people who find themselves on it could not help but start talking to each other.
Yul’s popularity grew: for example, at the end of the 20th century, the Japanese showed interest in his work – the “organic” aesthetics of the designer’s furniture turned out to be very close to them. As for the heritage in his homeland, Yul’s house in Copenhagen was preserved as a museum, along with furnishings and furniture, most of which he made with his own hands.