Before the Swan Sofa (1958), Arne Jacobsen’s architecture and designs were shaped by an assumption of materials’ natural ways of resisting. In other words, he could make them go only so far in becoming the structures he desired. With new technologies, however, the old rules no longer applied, and he was able to shape fluid curves and single-piece molded shells. The Swan Sofa is now made from polyurethane foam, but at the time, Jacobsen used Styropore® to create its continuous shape. Designed for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, for which Jacobsen was the architect. A single upholsterer hand-sews the fabric onto the frame of Swan. Original design and licensed manufacture by Republic of Fritz Hansen. Made in Poland.
Arne Jacobsen bought a plywood chair designed by Charles Eames and installed it in his own studio, where it inspired one of the most commercially successful chair models in design history. The three-legged Ant Chair (1951) sold in the millions and is considered a classic today. It consists of two simple elements: tubular steel legs and a springy seat and back formed out of a continuous piece of plywood in a range of vivid colors.
Jacobsen began training as a mason before studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where he won a silver medal for a chair that was then exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that built on the country’s craft-based design heritage.
First among Arne Jacobsen’s important architectural commissions was the Bellavista housing project in Copenhagen (1930-1934). His best-known and most fully integrated works are the SAS Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel Copenhagen, for which Jacobsen designed every detail, from sculptural furnishings such as his elegant Swan and Egg Chairs (1957-1958) to textiles, lighting, ashtrays and cutlery.
During the 1960s, Jacobsen’s most important work was a unified architectural and interior design scheme for St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, which, like his earlier work for the Royal Hotel, involved the design of site-specific furniture. Jacobsen’s work remains appealing and fresh today, combining free-form sculptural shapes with the traditional attributes of Scandinavian design, material and structural integrity.