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ARNE JACOBSEN (1902-1971) was one of Denmark's most influential
20th century architects and designers. Both his buildings and products,
like his Swan and Egg Chairs, combine modernist ideals with a Nordic
love of naturalism.
As an architect and an industrial designer, Jacobsen always strove to
achieve this grace and coherence. In the process, he emerged as the
single most influential Danish architect of the 20th century and the
designer of such modernist classics as the Swan, Egg and Ant Chairs as
well as the stainless steel, abstract-shaped cutlery which the director
Stanley Kubrick chose as timelessly futuristic props for his film, 2001:
A Space Odyssey.
During the 1950s, Jacobsen became increasingly interested in product
design inspired by the work of the US furniture designers, Charles and
Ray Eames. He was also influenced both by the ideals of his textile
designer wife, Joanna, and the Italian design historian Ernesto Rogers,
who believed that the design of every element was equally important
"from the spoon to the city".
In 1951, Jacobsen completed work on the Ant Chair - Model 3100, an
intricately moulded plywood seat on three splindly steel legs. This was
followed by the simpler hourglass form of the 1955 Model 3107 - Series 7
Chair. Like the Ant, the Series 7 was perfect for modern living being
light, compact and easily stackable, but not even Jacobsen could have
anticipated that it would become one of the most popular chairs of the
late 20th and early 21st centuries even featuring on the set of the BBC
soap opera EastEnders.
By the late 1950s, Jacobsen was given an opportunity to put his
theories of integrated design and architecture into practise in the
design of the SAS Ari Terminal and Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. He
designed every element of the building from its skyscraping structure
down to the ceramic ashtrays sold in the souvenir shop and the stainless
steel cutlery later chosen by Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Jacobsen also created another pair of classic 20th century chairs for
the hotel in 1957's Swan and Egg with strikingly organically shaped
upholstered seats on slender metal bases.
From the 1950s onwards Jacobsen
was the dominant figure in Danish architecture, but outside Denmark he
made his mark as a furniture and product designer. As well as the Swan,
Egg and Series 7, he was responsible for another 20th century classic,
the Cylinda Line stainless steel cocktail kit and tableware which he
designed in the late 1960s for Stelton, a company run by his foster son
Peter Holmblad. Jacobsen spent three years finessing the project and
finally produced a collection of 17 objects for Stelton, all based on
the shape of a cylinder. When the Cylinda Line was launched, sales were
so poor that Holmblad sent his wife into the Copenhagen department
stores to place orders for it. The Cylinda Line then went on to win
numerous international design awards, although the abstemious Jacobsen
insisted on using the Martini mixer for hot soup.
Months before his death in 1971, Arne Jacobsen reflected on his
career. "The fundamental factor is proportion," he concluded.
"Proportion is precisely what makes the old Greek temples
beautiful...And when we look at some of the most admired buildings of
the Renaissance or the Baroque, we notice that they are all
well-proportioned. That is the essential thing."