This is an important and an angry statement by Arne Jacobsen and it suggests that by the 1930s he had become frustrated with the growing popularity for what he appears to see as a diluted and superficial approach to functionalism in architecture and the design of interiors . He is concerned, that Funkis is more concerned with style and fashion than rational architecture and did not reflect his own interest in the radical exploitation of new materials and new methods of construction.
Grønne Funkishus Nordre Fasanvej 78-82
In Copenhagen, there is a clear change from the apartments buildings that were constructed in the late 19th century and early 20th century and the apartment buildings from the 1920s and 1930s.
In the 19th century each building was different from the next, often with relatively ornate doorways, carvings and complex mouldings for the street frontage and inside the arrangement of the apartments was often dictated by a narrow plot with existing buildings on either side that determined where and how windows to the back could be arranged. Even within a building, there were often differences between one floor and the next in both ceiling heights and in the quality of fittings.
By the 1920s, plans of individual apartments became simpler and they were generally more compact and certainly more rational in their arrangement of the rooms and staircases. Because many of these new buildings were on new sites outside the old city, or if they were within the city a whole block could be cleared of old buildings, so there is generally a greater sense of uniformity within larger and larger buildings.
In part, this was because, in this period immediately after the First World War, there was a severe housing shortage and, to a considerable extent, the functionalism and the adoption of new building techniques was driven by a need to build as many apartments as possible and as quickly as possible.
farmstead from Eiderstedt now at Frilandsmuseet in Denmark
To talk about Functionalism in architecture in Denmark, usually refers to buildings designed in the middle of the 20th century and frequently cited as an example is the work at the university of Aarhus by C F Møller. The term implies an architecture where volumes and details have been pared back to what is considered to be essential and the architects take as their starting point the intended function. At a general level the term is linked with buildings that are often criticised by the public as being stark or even brutal and is usually associated with the use of concrete.
To take the word functional literally, as simply the general and practical starting point for the design of a building, then this building, the farmstead from Eiderstedt in Schleswig, now in the open-air museum, Frilandsmuseet north of Copenhagen, is perhaps the most beautiful and the most amazing Functionalist building in Denmark.
It was also possibly one of the most beautiful factories in Denmark. It is, to all intents and purposes a factory farm with a huge hay barn at the centre with a threshing floor across one side, entered through the large double doors in the end, and with stalls for cows, stalls for cows about to calve, stalls for horses and oxen, the working animals for the farm, and then across one end, under the same roof, the well fitted and comfortable home of the wealthy farmer with a diary and cheese store at the coolest corner of the building.
The plan and the division of spaces is determined completely by the structure with a massive wood frame supporting the weight of that great thatched roof. With everything under a single roof there was total control of the working process, security and of course sustainability with little natural heating wasted.
Above all, what is so striking about this vernacular architecture is its self confidence; the complete understanding of the building materials, exploited to the maximum, and the simplicity of the roof profile like an enormous sculpture.
Below are a selection of photographs of vernacular and mainly rural buildings from Denmark that show just how confident these craftsmen were in their materials and in their own skills but they also had a clear appreciation of form and colour.