Arne Jacobsen thought of himself foremost as an architect and disliked the label of a designer but today some of the most popular and commercially successful design icons are associated with his name.
An uncompromising perfectionist in his work he understood to merge his passion for painting, his love for nature and botanic with his rationalist understanding of architecture and design.
In his time his works were considered futuristic and artistic and indeed some of his designs like the Series 7 chair designed 1955 fit in seamlessly in today’s style world, almost 60 years later.
His abstract stainless steel cutlery for the SAS Royal Hotel Copenhagen could even be seen in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Very early in his career, shortly after graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen he won a competition with The House of the Future. A spiral shaped building with a helipad on the rooftop and conveyor tube for the mail that gained him recognition for his futuristic sense of design.
“The fundamental factor is proportion”, he said shortly before his death and in order to achieve this proportional ideal on a larger scale he insisted that he was given maximum freedom to design everything involved when commissioned a project. From the building itself to the landscaping and the design of fixtures and fittings no detail was too minor for him to obsess about.
When working on the St. Catherine’s College in Oxford he even chose the type of fish to be placed in the pond.
Arne Jacobsen’s interest for product design became more apparent after his wartime exile in Sweden during which he desingned wallpapers and textiles with botanic patterns as architcural commissions were rare during those years. It culminated in the late 50s with the first designer hotel in the world, the SAS Royal Hotel Copenhagen.
It is a result of this obsession to create a complete look and along with it some of his most iconic designs were born. The organic shaped Egg,, Swanand Drop chairs, the matching table and floor lamp are all products designed for this still outstanding project.
Apart from the distinct, often organic shapes for his furniture designs Jacobsen’s work in product design stands apart because he was open to new materials and techniques yet remained close to nature and retained his sense for craftmanship.
His Ant chair followed by the immensly successful Series 7 were inspired by a plywood chair by Charles Eames that he once bought for his own studio. The pressure molding technique applied on plywood was further developed for the Ant, Series 7 and Lily chairs. Jacobsen initially had to agree to purchase a minimum of 100 chairs himself to convince the sceptical manufacturer Fritz Hansen to go into production. It turned out to be one of the most commercially succesful furniture designs with the Series 7 chair more than 10 million times sold.
But above all the work of Arne Jacobsen is relevant till today because of its pictorial energy, its pure and yet comforting aesthetics that is the result of his at the first glance contradicting personality.