A Danish designer and architect, Arne Emil Jacobsen was born in 1902 and passed in 1971. While some many remember him for the contributions he made to architectural functionalism, when it comes to furniture design, Arne Jacobsen is known for simple chairs with effective designs.
The Life of Arne Jacobsen
Before we look at the beautifully designed furniture Jacobsen created, it’s important to know a bit about his life. Arne Jacobsen was born in Copenhagen to a father in the wholesale trade of snap fasteners and safety pins. His mother worked as a bank teller, but she also painted floral motifs in her spare time.
Arne was influenced by his mother and originally wanted to become a painter. However, his father encouraged him to study architecture, which led to an apprenticeship as a mason. Later, Jacobsen was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where he studied from 1924 to 1927 in the Architecture School. Two of the leading architects and designers of the time were professors of Jacobsen; Kaj Gottlob & Kay Fisker.
The first look at furniture design from Jacobsen came in 1925 when he entered a chair design in the Paris Art Deco fair. He won a silver medal and this is where his furniture design really started and he found plenty of inspiration on the same trip.
In fact, the inspiration from the trip helped to influence many of the early designs from Jacobsen; including the art gallery he won a gold medal for as his graduation project. Over the years, Arne Jacobsen won many competitions and awards including the Danish Architect’s Association competition with his “House of the Future” design.
Jacobsen designed many houses including the Rothenborg House, along with other buildings, such as a seaside resort complex in Klampenborg. He also designed the Bellevue Sea Bath and even the Stelling House, which was originally met with plenty of public opposition.
Working with Eric Moller, Jacobsen designed the Aarhus City Hall, which won a competition and was another controversial design. Many believed his architectural style was too modern and even too anti-monumental.
Jacobsen received several large commissions over his lifetime, including the design of the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, which was built from 1956 to 1960. This hotel was known as the first designer hotel in the world. He also received the commission to design St. Catherine’s College.
While Jacobsen completed many architectural projects and furniture designs throughout his lifetime, he did leave a handful of projects uncompleted, including:
- The Town Hall in Mainz, Germany
- The Danish National Bank
- The Royal Danish Embassy in London
- The Town Hall in Castrop-Rauxel, Germany
After Arne Jacobsen died unexpectedly in 1971, these projects were left incomplete. However, a firm called Dissing+Weitling took over the projects and completed each one of them. This firm was set up by two of Arne Jacobsen’s former employees; Hans Dissing and Otto Weitling.
While a good portion of the life of Arne Jacobsen revolved around his work, he was more than just an architect and designer. Arne enjoyed botany as a hobby and was known as a jovial family man with a nerdy passion for his work.
Furniture Designed by Arne Jacobsen
Jacobsen may be known for the many important buildings he designed throughout his lifetime, but he was also very influential with his mid-century furniture designs. In fact, most of his furniture designs are more well-known today than his architectural offerings.
The furniture designed by Jacobsen shows off his willingness to collaborate with other designers and some of his influence. Jacobsen’s designs were heavily influenced by Charles and Ray Eames, along with other popular designers from the mid-century era.
Many of the most important architectural designs from Arne Jacobsen were not just buildings he designed. Often, he would design every detail of the project including the furniture. For example, the SAS Royal Hotel found in Denmark features the signature Egg Chair with the matching footstool from Jacobsen. This chair was designed in 1958 and represents one of the most well-known pieces of furniture designed by Jacobsen.
Along with the famous Egg Chair, Jacobsen also created two other very famous chair designs; the Ant Chair and the Swan Chair. The Ant Chair was created in 1951, while the Swan chair was designed in 1956. A few other popular furniture designs from Jacobsen include:
- Pot Chair
- Tongue Chair
- Series 7 Chairs
- Giraffe Chair
- Drop Chair
- Dot Stool Modern 3170
- Dot Stool Model M3170
Jacobsen’s design talents didn’t just influence architecture and furniture, however. He also designed cocktail sets, tea service sets, flatware, faucets, bathroom accessories, and kitchen accessories. In fact, he won a competition in 1961 due to the interior designs he included in the National Bank of Denmark design.
Arne Jacobsen was more than just an architect or a furniture designer. He was a man holding himself and his work to a higher standard. No detail was trivial to Jacobsen. His designs live on today and many mid-century furniture fans seek out the famous pieces, such as the Egg Chair or the Ant Chair.