Arne Jacobsen, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on February 11th, 1902, and subsequently became Denmark’s most important, and successful architects and designers of the 20th century. His work has been copied, used abstractly, and mimicked so many times that he got world famous by the mere fact that he got copied so much. He created had knack for creating futuristic indoor landscapes when he put a building and its insides together, and it was out of him seeing what no one else could see, he stuck
iconic status with his furniture he had created to build those interior story-scapes. He was a strong individual who not only influenced people in his homeland, but all over the world, because of his bold, modern, naturalistic designs.
Jacobsen as a child was always redecorating his Victorian floral wallpaper, as his parents never seemed to want encourage his artistic nature. His father Johan was a safety pin and snap fastener trader, and his mother Pouline was a trained bank clerk. When Arne expressed his wishes to become and artist, his father hinted at him becoming an architect instead, which seemed to be more secure choice. And he began on the road to becoming an architect by first learning the intricacies of design and craftsmanship as a mason like so many other famous architects before him, before he subsequently enrolled as a student of architecture at the Copenhagen Royal Academy of Arts in 1924. A year later, he wins a sliver medal for his amazing chair design at the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs” in Paris, where is mesmerized by Le Corbusier’s accomplishments. He is also taken aback by the German architecture of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Walter Gropius, and he graduates successfully from the academy with a gold medal for his design of an art gallery in 1927.
His time working as a mason gave Jacobsen the love and understanding of the depth that materials could hold, and it became driving force in everything he did later on. Also his favourite architects influenced him greatly in all his works, especially in his earlier projects. He had an over-consuming ingredient for detail in everything he designed, and a huge thirst for perfection, and because of this he was often drenched in doubt. He always believed in “seeing two sides to every issue, with only a hint of imagination, and it is difficult to be sure if both sides are right, but then you are seen as insecure, and that isn’t allowed!” He went on to say “The key thing is seeing everything grow, setting out with a small sketch and seeing the whole and the details spring to life. It may sound affected – but it is the act of creation itself, and it is equally exhilarating whether one is working on a teaspoon or a national bank. There is always a point when one senses one’s lack of skill, the doubt. Carrying out the thing, getting it to the point when one might say, “There, now it is good”, that point is hard to reach. Often, one sets very high goals for oneself. Perhaps too high”.
From the period after he graduated to 1930, he worked for the architectural firm of Paul Holsoe, after that he established his own design firm which was filled with his own stringent work ethics of perfection, and staying at the drawing board until the work is completely done. And he expected his employees to echo these same strict ethics throughout their day, and they always saw as a difficult person for this. He worked for on his own as an architect, ceramics, interior, furniture, and textile designer. Between 1930 and 1935 he modernized the beach at Bellevue, completes the Bellavista apartment blocks, and designs the very controversial Stelling Hus building. But during World War II, work dwindled not because of scarcity of materials, but he was Jewish, in a Nazi occupied Denmark. It was not safe for him, so in 1943 he fled to Sweden, by sailing a small boat across the Sound, and stayed there for two years of war exile. He worked in Sweden designing wallpapers and fabrics, and Scandinavia’s deep cultural roots infused with natural beauty inspired him to a great extent.
He returned to Denmark in 1945, and the country needed a lot of housing and public buildings, these were mediocre for his talents but they were for necessity not notability. 1950 saw him being a little more open with his projects, he was inspired by Charles and Ray Eames design and produced one of most famous pieces of a moulded, plywood chair “The Ant”. He began experimenting with architecture through the 1952 Allehusene Complex and 1955 Søholm housing. And in 1955, he created his single most successful piece of furniture, in the reformed and redefined basis of The Ant into the historical “Series 7” or the “Number 7” chairs. By 1956 he became an architect professor at his alma mater, and then in 1958 he designs two more iconic chairs: the Egg and the Swan, for his running project, the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. He also designs every single fixture and furniture in the building, and the futuristic cutlery he designed ended up as a prop for the movie 2001: A space Odyssey.
In 1961 the SAS Royal Hotel opens, to wide acclaim of the level of detail, and in 1964 the radical Belydere opens also. He forms with his foster son Peter Holmblad “Cylinda Line” where Jacobsen designs stainless steel cocktail kit and tableware. And it was in this year that he won the bid to completely the design the inside of out of the highly coveted St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, in England, which raised many eyebrows. The outcome was his most accomplished architecture to date. It is said to be his best work, and very beautiful and fusing with its surroundings as well. He designed down to the tiniest detail inside the school and the result is high quality work that is still around today.
His other notable and remembered works in furniture are the Paris chair, the Cigar, the Grand-prix, the Giraffe, the drop, and the Pot, plus many other works chairs that are works of art. And his list is also long for the number of countless architect projects he was involved in: the Bellevue Theatre (1935-36), Århus City Hall (1939-42), Søllerød Town Hall (1940-42), Rødovre Town Hall (1957), Round House in Sjaellands (1957), Glostrup Town Hall (1958), The Munkegård School in Copenhagen (1955-59), Toms Chocolate Factories in Ballerup (1961), Denmark’s National bank (opened in 1978), Hamburger Elektrizitaetswerke Verwaltungsgebaeude in Hamburg (City Nord), Merton College, Oxford, The Royal Danish Embassy in London, and the SAS Ari Terminal among others.
Arne Jacobsen died on March 24th, 1971 in Copenhagen, and he leaves a very long and filled life doing and living what he loved. At the time of his death he was recognized as a master of the art, and having built and designed symbolic buildings in Germany, Great Britain and of course Denmark. In the end, he was hugely successful individual at everything he attempted, and he had an eye for aesthetics in all manner, which made his work perfect above everything else.