is it all in the concept …..



For any design - a design for a building, a chair or a teapot - the starting point has to be the idea, the concept. It is that first attempt to imagine the what and then think about the how. 

If you are cynical or pedantic or just being realistic - in this tough world - you could argue that a commercial design actually starts with the commission and the contract but for me what is fascinating about looking at a great design is to try and understand that initial concept and to see how it was realised.

My apartment is about 200 metres from Cirkelbroen - The Circle Bridge - that was designed by Olafur Eliasson and completed in 2015. So whenever I walk into the city I either see the bridge at the end of the canal or I actually cross over the bridge to get to Islands Brygge or get to the west part of the city centre. 

When it first opened I thought it was stunning … and to be honest also rather useful as it made it possible for the first time to walk from Christianshavn on south along the harbour … but mainly I thought that it was stunning. 

Unique as well. Elegant and curiously delicate, almost ephemeral, when seen in sunlight but particularly if it is misty or the light is failing at the end of the day - but at night stronger and much more dramatic.

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…. all in the engineering ….

the bridge open for a boat to move out from the canal and into the harbour beyond



To be mundane, I suppose Cirkelbroen is simply a bridge over a canal, where there had been no bridge before, but it means that, for the first time, people on bicycles or walking can get along the waterfront of the harbour between Knippelsbro - the historic bridge at the centre of the harbour that links the historic centre and Christianshavn - and Langebro - the main traffic bridge between the city centre and Amager. All that was needed was a simple steel bridge that could either be raised or swung open to let boats from the canal sail out into the harbour.

Of course the bridge designed by Olafur Elliasson is so much more than it … but even so …  in the end … it all has to work and it has to be robust and it has to be relatively quick to move and and easy to operate. So that it is the engineering part of the design that allowed the concept to be realised.

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…… or all in the detail?



So at the start there is an idea - a brilliant concept - and then the engineering is the how that makes it all work. But I’m fascinated to find out who frets about the small stuff and when. Are the details of the design really just a part of the design process or part of the execution so the responsibility of the people who manufacture or construct or build the design? 

Arne Jacobsen had a reputation for designing every detail and he seems to have kept tight control of a small drawing office so presumably everything, even for a large project ,went across his desk but at the other extreme there are architects and designers who present their ‘brilliant’ idea with a flourish, and while others worry about how or if it can be realised, they are off and away on the next exciting idea. Presumably, most major projects have to sit somewhere between those two extremes. And, of course, the details and the quality of the parts always depend on the size of the budget.

And the truth is that in the end, when it’s all finished, all that beautifully executed and expensive detail can be overlooked by people distracted by the excitement of experiencing that dramatic concept. 

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all in the detail



There have been several posts on this site about the stone cobbles or setts used for roads and pavements in the city. This is obviously far from being a cheap option but it is hard wearing and it is practical … unless you are wearing stiletto heels or you are trying to control a suitcase on wheels … and almost impossible if you are doing both. 

The first photograph is of the old meat market just to the west of the central station. There are no longer carts with metal hoops on their wheels clattering and bumping over these lanes and they no longer get covered with blood and gore - or at least not often - but the cobbles form a fantastic foil for the buildings.

Cobbles in the city range in colour through greys and dull purples and form an appropriate base for the buildings and create a texture that concrete paving or tarmac really cannot match.

The cobbles are laid with blocks of stone and together they form pathways that are used to direct the walker and cobbles can also be used on more prominent features to form embankments or gullies for drainage - as in front of the warehouses on Holmen. Cobbles are laid with considerable skill - part of the cost - for changes of level or to direct away water as in the example shown here which is at Højbro - the bridge over the canal from Christiansborg - where the curve of stone steps and the slope of the cobbles are necessary where the levels change dropping down from the bridge and round to the lower level of the quay at Ved Stranden.

At the top, two photographs show the corner of a street in Christianshavn … not an old surface - because until the 1990s this was the site of industrial buildings of a large engineering works - but cobbles have been used to respect the importance of this historic quarter of the city.

A trench was dug across part of the road fairly recently but with the cobbles back there is now no trace of the work so not just stylish but also practical … as long as you don’t insist on wearing those stiletto heels.


a design back catalogue .....


The recently restored building of the old postoffice in Købmagergade in Copenhagen has become a major design destination for the city. On Købmagergade itself, ARKET has been open for less than a month but if you head down the side of the building to the right, down Løvestræde, there is the entrance to the showrooms of the major furniture company Fredericia and to the left, down Valkendorfsgade, is the entrance to the show rooms and design store for Fritz Hansen.

ARKET and their collection of fashion and household design is literally brand new but both Fredericia and Fritz Hansen are well established companies with international reputations and both have catalogues that balance new commissions from major designers working now along with what are recognised to be Danish design classics that may have been designed fifty or sixty or more years ago.

Talk to young designers, just in the first years of their careers, and the conversation will inevitably come round to the ‘shadow’ in which they work. And that is not necessarily expressing a sense of awe but often a sense of frustration … if a company falls back on a well-established or safe design then where is the opportunity for the Arne Jacobsen or Nanna Ditzel of this generation to get their work into production? It is a problem. Major design by Hans Wegner or Børge Morgensen are not just popular but their furniture deserves to have a relevant and important place in contemporary interiors.

In some cases, the current production can even be better than the originals - with improvements in materials or changes in manufacturing methods - but how much should the back catalogue be updated or changed to give the designs a new relevance or a new appeal?

Series 7 was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955 but is still incredibly popular which is testament to the design itself. One current version has gold legs and when I saw the chair with fabric covers in a deep plush it was obvious that my inner puritan was a bit affronted … plywood is an amazing material and the original design exploited the flexibility of the steamed and shaped shell so that it was comfortable without padding.

But then I thought the display piece in the entrance to the Fritz Hansen store - with the shell set on a rough log - looks fantastic so my qualms were about taste and not for messing with the master. The Series 7 - on a linked frame rather than on legs - has been used in many lecture rooms ... a good recent example being at Museet for Søfart - the Maritime Museum - in Helsingør designed by Bjarke Ingels.

And the Series 7 is available in a good range of colours and wood veneers so maybe a great classic design can be and should be all things to all tastes. 

Fritz Hansen


Circular Economy


A major exhibition at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation to show fourteen projects that offer new solutions and strategies for the development of new sustainable materials along with the development of new technologies, the exploration of new approaches to building and construction and the recycling or re-circulation of materials.

“The conversion means that we need to work innovatively and experimentally on the development of new materials and the recycling of old ones, while also using our knowledge to create solutions that people actually want to use. That is the way we work at KADK, so our research and the skills of our graduates can play a major role in terms of giving people a better life without putting pressure on our planet.” 

Lene Dammand Lund.


Through the Autumn there will be a series of open seminars to “draw on knowledge and experience from some of the world’s leading architects and designers in the field of circularity, who will be invited to talk about their work.”


the exhibition Circular Economy continues at KADK at Philip de Langes Allé 10 in Copenhagen until 3 December 2017


Side by side outside - Cabinetmakers’ Autumn exhibition



This was the first day of the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark.

It was raining and cold and the leaves are turning but it didn’t matter. In fact it meant I had the garden of the museum to myself. 

For me this annual exhibition - to show the work of the cabinetmakers - is always one of the best exhibitions of the year. It never fails to challenge or delight or make you look at a material or a form or a convention in a different or new way.

In a city where there is so much good architecture and so much great design, it is actually this exhibition that comes closest to summing up what this site is about - about looking at and taking photographs of and writing about those works where imagination; the ability to translate an idea into a working and feasible design; a command of the materials being used and the skill of the craftsman or the quality of manufacturing - all come together. 

A full review to follow ASAP 


Side by side outside continues at Designmuseum Danmark until 5 November 2017


Aalto at Designmuseum Danmark



An exhibition has just opened at Designmuseum Danmark about the building and furniture for the Paimio Sanatorium designed by Alvar Aalto and completed in 1933. The exhibition, in the area to the left of the entrance, includes two of the original chairs from the sanatorium that are in the permanent collection of the museum along with photograph of the building work, information and photographs of drawings and the finished building and its interior. 

The sanatorium was designed for the treatment of tuberculosis so the Functionalist building had features such as cupboards fixed up off the floor to make cleaning easier and there were wide and open balconies and a sun deck on the top floor where patients could sit out in the fresh air. The chairs were made with frames in steam-bent beech and with birch plywood … in part because these were timbers native to Finland and in part they provided comfort but also avoided potential problems with the hygiene of upholstery.

the exhibition continues until 21 January 2017

Nytt Rom 59

THE we like it simple… men det er fristende med en dose komfort og luxus ISSUE

THE we like it simple… but it's tempting with a dose of comfort and luxury ISSUE


There is the normal good mix of photographs and brief notes about a wide range of products and furniture including, in this issue, the Beak Chair designed by Ole Wanscher in 1951 and recently back in production by Carl Hansen; the new bar stool by Aurélien Barbry for Fredericia and the Brødrenes F-stol designed by Rasmus Bækkel Fex for the Danish furniture company Brdr. Krüger.

The F Chair is a modern interpretation of the simple style of Shaker furniture with a light frame with thin elegant cross rails and a webbing seat that in original chairs in the 19th century would have been in canvas but here has polyester webbing … a clever use of the type of strapping developed for ruck sacks and robust luggage. There was Shaker store in London for a while - selling reproductions of traditional Shaker designs that had been made in the USA and they sold the canvas webbing so I tried fairly successfully to use it for the seats of two framed chairs I had but it was difficult to keep the webbing tight as I formed the traditional chequerboard weave and it did stretch with use so the polyester webbing seems like an interesting solution.

This issue of Nytt Rom includes the Vivlio Shelving system from Skagerak that has thin metal frames that support a wood shelf that is constructed like an open box with solid base back and ends and come in three heights from a shallow tray, to a medium height shelf to a shelf with high ends and back ideal for magazines or folders. A frame and a single shelf form one unit but these can be stacked up to form a book shelf. The metal frame has cross struts to support the shelf but these can be used either way up - with the cross supports towards the top or towards the bottom of the frame - so the spacing of shelves can be varied and as the frames and shelves come in different colours or finishes then quite interesting variations and combinations are possible.

This issue has some interesting cutlery from the interiors shop Artilleriet in Gøteborg and a simple canister-shaped or straight-sided cup with a generous handle called Tubus in dark grey with white inside from the Norwegian ceramicist Bodil Mogstad Skipnes. These have a generous bold loop of a handle which for me is important because I have quite large hands so I get very frustrated and embarrassed if a finger gets caught in the prissy little loop of a delicate tea cup.

Nytt Rom is the place to get ideas for all the fittings and additional things you need for a home particularly if you are looking for something with a distinct design heritage so in this issue there is a standard lamp by Le Corbusier from the Casa Shop.

There are also, of course, longer features in the ongoing series that profiles the homes of designers, architects and other professionals working in related design industries so in this issue the home of Charlotte Egelund in Frederiksberg; the apartment in Copenhagen of Niels Christophersen of Frama; a lake-side summer home in Sweden by the architectural firm Arrhov Frick Arkitektkontor and the home in Stockholm of the architect Johan Arrhov.

All four of these interiors demonstrate, in different ways, that important Scandinavian trick of mixing classic pieces of furniture or classic styles but with a very modern twist but also keeping the whole look simple and uncluttered - clean - using some colour or interesting collected pieces or lamps or textiles to add that luxury or, at least to make it all personal … or as Hans Petter Smeby - the editor of Nytt Rom - points out "do not miss cream on the top, olive in the drink, raisins in sausage and raw decorations … " and he goes on to talk about what appear to be the virtues of fancy model ships, boxing gloves, pictures of butterflies and sumptuous flower arrangements. Now hang on … I moved to Copenhagen to get away from that sort of thing.

KADK Afgang Sommer’17


This weekend is the last opportunity to see the exhibition of the projects and work of this year's graduates from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation … a densely packed show of the talents and the phenomenal imaginations and skills of the students who have just completed their courses in Copenhagen.

There are profiles of the students and photographs and descriptions of their work on the KADK site.

The exhibition ends on 13th August. 

KADK, Danneskiold-Samsøe Alle, Copenhagen