Woven Lines


An exhibition of the latest work by the textile designer Helene Vonsild has just opened at the craft and designers gallery - Danske Kunsthåndværkere & Designere - in Copenhagen. This is an intriguing and very beautiful and elegant exhibition that is a development of the techniques and the ideas shown by Helene last May when the work Human Textile Object was selected for Liquid Life … The Biennale for Craft & Design.



K&D - Danske Kunsthåndværkere & Designere - Bredgade 66, 1260 Copenhagen K

the exhibition continues until 8 April 2018

I am Black Velvet


This is the last week to see the exhibition of the work of Erik Mortensen at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen. I am Black velvet shows the haute couture designs for Pierre Balmain and Jean Louis Scherrer from 1982 through to 1995. 

I am Black Velvet, Designmuseum Danmark

the exhibition continues until 18th March 2018

Frost 2018 ... nature's version


It has been raw cold in Copenhagen - almost too cold to snow - but then the temperatures went up slightly and then the snow came and settled.

For fairly obvious reasons, although the web site is headed Copenhagen News, there is little here, day-to-day about the weather but with the snow a very beautiful grey light and a muffled quiet has settled over the city and it really is stunningly beautiful.

comment and correction to the post on Paimio Sanatorium

Aalto Armchair 42.jpg

Armchair 42 with a more pronounced curve to the front edge of the seat

x aalto-chair-no51-Aurora Hospital-1932 from 1934.jpg

the armchair used in the entrance hall and the bedrooms ... photograph from abelsloane1934

x bc931b64-bf91-4677-bbec-cd00d64379a7_g_570.Jpeg

chair with simple plywood seat on tubular metal frame. Note the way that the tubular frame is angled in immediately behind the front legs to make the back rail narrower than the space between the front legs. The chairs could not be stacked vertically but facing the same way they could slide together into lines for storage.

Today two comments came through on a post on this site ... my review for a recent exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark about the buildings and two of the chairs designed by Alvar Aalto for the Sanatorium at Paimio.

The comments raised several important points. One was that the initial version of the Paimio Chair did not have slots in the back of the head rest and these were introduced later. A photograph from the 1930s shows this chair used in the lounge of the hospital - an area for patients that had large windows overlooking the forest and part of the dining room but screened off from it by folding doors. The chairs are shown set out in four rows with the chairs facing parallel to the windows and not towards them and with all the chairs in a row facing in the same direction. This suggests that they were not arranged for socialising or conversation but to create a place where patients could sit quietly and rest. There were side tables between the rows - the Ring Table - a version of the Side Table 915 still made by Artek - with two ‘loops’ of bentwood that support a top tray and a shelf in plywood and both with the ends bent upwards. Looking at the photograph none of the chairs appear to have the slots in the head rest. The slots were said to help air circulate around the face of the patient - tuberculosis is a disease that compromises the lungs and breathing - so when were the slots introduced and for which building? 

The second comment was that the Armchair shown in the exhibition was not the version of Armchair no 42 that was used in the hospital but that the chair used at Paimio had a much more pronounced bend of plywood at the front edge of the seat than the chair in the exhibition. This is curious because a drawing showing the side views of both the chairs and details of the bentwood frames was included in the chapter by  Katrina Mikonranta in the volume on the Sanatorium published by the Alvar Aalto Foundation.* There, it is dated to 1934 and is labelled “preliminary drawing for the patent application for the production method of the Ring Chair (Paimio Chair) and Spring Chair (Armchair no 42)” and that shows the version of the armchair that was shown in the exhibition. Looking through the historic photographs available, I have not been able to find any views of rooms in the hospital at Paimio with this chair so which version of the chair was used and in which rooms? 

This proves, yet again, just how much a carefully-compiled concordance for the work of a designer can contribute. This is particularly important where designs are brought back into production, sometimes under a different name and sometimes made by a different company, and for early designs, both before and after the war, a cabinetmaker or workshop might well be producing a design in small batches with a changing workforce and, of course, many designs do evolve and can be modified deliberately over years of production if new or better materials are available or when new machinery for the workshop was developed.

The mistake that was completely mine was the ambiguous or badly-written sentence that implies that it was these bentwood chairs that were used on the terraces and the comment points out quite rightly that outside there were tubular metal recliners and again these can be seen in historic photographs.

This correction is an opportunity to add slightly more about the furniture for the Sanatorium that was not strictly relevant in the review of the exhibition because that focused on the two chairs. 

In fact, furniture for the new building was not included in 1928 in the initial terms of the competition to design the Sanatorium and Aalto submitted a separate proposal for furniture in March 1932 that was accepted by the Committee on 1st June. 

Kaarina Mikonranta, in her chapter on Paimio Interiors,* appears to show all the furniture for the hospital itself including an arm chair with a seat and back from a single piece of bent plywood with a wood frame that was used in the entrance hall. Still produced by Artek and now called Chair 403 'Hallway', these arm chairs were also used in the bedrooms for the patients. The rooms had two single beds with bed-side cabinets and a wardrobe with a curved door in plywood and across the window, which came down low to admit as much light as possible, there was a deep shelf across the width of the room, just inset from the window, to form a desk or table and photographs from the 1930s show rooms with two chairs drawn up to the shelf where patients could sit in front of the window.

Aalto designed a simple plywood seat on a cantilevered tubular metal frame, a simplified version of a Bauhaus chair that was used in the sanatorium reading room. Kaarina Mikonranta has included among the illustrations a fascinating photograph of at least 41 of the plywood shells of these chairs, on edge and pushed together as a batch, on the floor of the dining room and 37 versions of the same chair with a wider plywood seat where a long slot along the edge of the shell meant that an arm rest could be bent upwards on each side to form what was identified as Chair no 28. There was a wider version of the shell of Chair  no 28 that appears to have been covered in leather and was set on a wide metal base to form a chair for the Chief physician's workroom. Clearly all these plywood shells were waiting to be assembled.

For laboratory benches, there was a stool with a pyramid-shaped frame in metal strip, rather than tube, to support a round seat with a very low back piece and in the dining room there were good, simple, wood chairs with four legs and a back rest that could be stacked and are described as a “row chair”.

The offices of the Sanatorium staff and their accommodation in the villas and apartments on the site were also furnished and included hefty upholstered armchairs with the distinct frame of the Armchair 41.

Today, by coincidence, along with the email with the comments on the post, there was also a news letter from the furniture gallery Jacksons who specialise in Scandinavian and international vintage design. There was a photograph and a link there to an exhibition that they curated in June 2013 and called Paimio Sanatorium at Design Basel where they showed an amazing display of not just the furniture from a bedroom but doors, lighting and, of course, the washbasin and spittoon. These are some of the best photographs on the internet of the furniture in the rooms of the patients at the sanatorium and show the window shelf, door handles, and the Paimio Hall Stool.



 * Alvar Aalto architect Volume 5 Paimio Sanatorium 1929-33 Alvar Alto Foundation (2014) illustration 69 page 53

More photographs are included in a post here on Chairs in plywood by Alvar Aalto from March 2015

CPH Light Festival - around Islands Brygge


Orb Family by Pipaluk Supernova and Thomas Jørgensen

Emil Holms Kanal

2 February - 2 March


Reflections by Silla Herbst

Emil Holms Kanal

from 2 February and then permanent


Balloon Forest by Delphine Piault and Frédéric Dilé

Kulturhuset, Islands Brygge 18

2 - 28 February


Eternal Sundown by Mads Vegas

Kalvebod Brygge 5

2 February - 2 March


CPH Light Festival 2018



CPH Light Festival is running through February, with Frost Festival 18, with sound and light installations around the city.

The Wave, by Mikkel Meyer and Jonas Fehr, has returned for a second winter at Ofelia Plads on the harbour immediately north of the National Theatre and on the other side of the harbour to the Opera House.

There are forty triangles, each 4 metres high, set in line along the mole. The light responds to the movement of people as they walk down through the triangles and the haunting sound carries across the harbour to the park beside the Opera House.


The Wave, Ofelia Plads, Copenhagen 4 February and 25th March

programme of the installations for CPH LIGHT FESTIVAL

I RUM - by Anja M Larsen



Laser-cut textiles ... an exhibition of designs by Anja Merete Larsen … studies in aesthetics and acoustics

"Where is the line between public and private? Can we change people's habits by repositioning a wall, pull a curtain or turning a door? It has great value for both employers and individuals to create confidence-inspiring space.

There is currently much debate about creating work environments that can suit both introverted and extroverted personality types. Environments where people can find peace, energy and focus. What is the optimum for an effective workplace? I think this is an interesting discussion to take up."


Danske Kunsthåndværkere & Designere - Officinet, Bredgade 66, Copenhagen

3rd - 18th February 2018


work on the new metro stations from the air

Kongens Nytorv - photograph from MAGASINET KBH


Last November the online site MAGASINET KBH published an amazing set of aerial photographs of the nineteen metro stations now being built for the new City Ring in Copenhagen. These show just how extensive the major engineering project has been but they also hint at just how much the new metro stations will change so many parts of the city. 

Of course the obvious change will be in how people will be able to move rapidly and easily from one part to another but the new stations will also revitalise areas and for key interchanges will influence how people use the surrounding streets and buildings and how they move around; how often they go to an area and how long they stay. 

Just how much change these patterns of movement will bring can be seen in the effect at Nørreport. There was a major train station there on the railway running east to west, from the old terminal at Østerport to the main central station, dating from the early 20th century, so long before the first stage of the metro was completed. Initially the metro station below the railway, serving a metro line running north south, seemed simply to reinforce routes taken by people as they arrived at or left the station … most people were heading into the shopping area. So it seemed to be more a matter of the number of people rather than what they were doing or where they were going. But the extensive remodelling of the street level by COBE has completely revitalised the area. 

Surely there will be a similar impact at the new stations on the new line - particularly at major transport interchanges including the square at Kongens Nytorv; at the square in front of the City Hall at Østerport and at Frederiksberg but other new metro stations are at key public open areas … particularly Trianglen - close to Fælledparken and the national football stadium - Nørrebro, at the centre of perhaps the most diverse and densely occupied part of the city; the station at the corner of the cemetery, Assistens Kirkegård, at Nørrebros Runddel and at Enghave Plads, out to the west of the central station, which will be an access point to the massive redevelopment on the old site of the Carlsberg brewery.


The photographs also include the engineering works for the spur line that will run out from the ring to the north harbour and there will be a second spur down to the south harbour.

the hoardings are coming down


Work is moving forward to complete the new City Ring of the metro in Copenhagen. One of the main new interchanges with the existing metro lines will be at Kongens Nytorv and there, after six years of being fenced off, the high green hoardings that have kept traffic and people to the fringes of the square are coming down. For now there are wire fences around the works but already the square seems larger and more open.

The next stage at ground level will be replanting all the trees and the reinstatement of the stone paving.

The equestrian statue of Christian V has been at the centre of the square since 1688 and remained there through all the works.

Skud på Stammen


An exhibition of furniture where newly-trained cabinetmakers have worked in collaboration with established designers to produce trial designs for furniture that would be appropriate for smaller homes. 

The exhibition showcases the work by students from NEXT– Uddannelse København who coordinate the training of both school students and vocational training for adults over the age of 25 in a wide range of work disciplines but also involved are DI - the association of Danish Industry - who have hosted the exhibition and, appropriately given this year’s theme, FDB Møbler - the furniture company of the Danish Cooperative movement who when they were first established in the late 1940s focused first on producing a range of well-designed and well-made furniture for young families setting up home and often within the limited space of a small apartment.

The other interesting aspect of the exhibition is that all the pieces had to be made in elm … a wood that in the past was used for making furniture but is a tree that in northern Europe in the late 20th century was almost-totally lost through first disease and then climate change. It is not as well known now as oak or beech for furniture making but has a distinct grain and it is good to see how the cabinetmakers have used a single type of timber to produce very different forms of joinery that exploit the unique character of the timber.


the exhibition continues until 6 April 2018

at DI (Dansk Industri) H C Andersens Boulevard 18, Copenhagen


Designer: Troels Grum Schwensen

Pupils: Christoffer Andreas Rudolph and Kristina Nielsen


Designer: Emil Reimert

Pupils: Laura Klakk, Pim van Vliet and Pernille Falsberg


Designer: Åsa Alm

Pupil:  Lulu Jacobsen


Designer: Aske Foersom and Jesper Rosenmeier

Pupil:  Kris Vejnø



An exhibition of the final projects by 22 architects and designers who have graduated from the Danish Royal Academy School for Architecture, Design and Conservation in Copenhagen to "show how architecture and design can offer solutions to diverse challenges in our society."




the exhibition continues at KADK

Philip de Langes Allé 10 in Copenhagen until 27th February 2018

The Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition 2018

It has been announced that the venue this year for the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition will be the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen.

Each year the committee choses a theme for the works and this year it will be MONO with works to explore the ideas of monochrome; monologue or monolithic to create furniture that “individually and collectively express a rhythmic narrative and simple whole.”

Thorvaldsen’s Museum, on the north side of Christiansborg, was designed by the architect Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll and completed in 1848 to provide an appropriate building to house and display the work of the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. With the galleries arranged around a central courtyard, the rooms have a striking and rich colour scheme that formed a background to the neo-classical figures in the collection.

The furniture in the Autumn Exhibition will use one of the eight colours used in the decoration of the building or will be in the natural colour of the wood used.

Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling

new buildings for a long-vacant plot


This relatively large rectangular plot at the junction of Ny Østergade and Store Regnegade is in the centre of the historic city. It has been empty for many years and with a high chain-link fence along the pavement it has been used as a car park - the more normal sequence with development in the city is to demolish buildings shortly before building work starts - but work is about to start here on building apartments above shops.

The site is important because it is on the corner of a junction with relatively narrow streets that meet at slightly unusual angles - so just where there is a change of alignment in Ny Østegade and where Store Regnegade curves even abruptly through 45 degrees. Views will not be along the front as on a normal street facade but at an angle so the new building will impinge on street views from all directions and could make or mar the streetscape over a wider area than the plot itself and the immediate neighbours. 


Drawings for the scheme from Praksis Arkitekter can be seen on the Magasinet KBH site. 

Nordea bank have moved


Nordea Bank have moved a main office out of a building in the centre of Copenhagen on the south side of Knippelsbro - the main bridge between the city centre and Christianshavn at the centre of the harbour - and are now in a new purpose-built block about 2 kilometres further south … close to the concert hall, studios and office buildings of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation at DR Byen.

This building, their old office by the bridge, dates from the late 1950s and was constructed as the headquarters of the shipyard of Burmeister & Wain. After they closed around 1990, it was taken over by a series of banks … presumably, in part, because of the convenient size of the building and possibly, in part, because of the proximity to the National Bank of Denmark; to the headquarters of the rival Danske Bank and to the buildings of parliament and the main government ministries over the harbour just on the other side of the bridge.

Now an application has been submitted to the planning department to convert the office building to a hotel to be run by the Hilton Group. 

The building is set back from the road but on a high base or terrace with an ugly high and blank concrete wall along the public pavement that runs down from the bridge to the level of Torvegade - the main road from the bridge, through Christianshavn to Amager. An initial proposal seems to be to break through this wall with windows and presumably an entrance into the hotel - which is good if it creates a less grim and forbidding frontage onto the pavement - and there are also proposals to open through from this lower level through to the harbour quay. 

At the moment there is no public route for pedestrians to get down to the quay directly from the bridge on this side although there are steps down on the other side of the road and steps down to the quay on both sides on the city side of the bridge. The only real objection to this would be if the hotel gains - by making the quay part of its domain or, at least, part of its facilities - but the citizens gain little in return.

But really the big problem - and it is literally about being big - is that the current proposal is to add at least another floor on top of the building. It is already a massive block of a building nearly 100 metres, along the street, and about 34 metres deep with seven main floors above that concrete base and, of course, a certain amount of service works on the flat roof for air con and lifts and so on. 

Why does the hotel need even more floor space in a huge building that already dominates this part of the harbour and dominates not in a good way? If it is simply for roof-top restaurants then should local people object to tourists admiring the roof scape of the historic city as a pleasant backdrop as they look out but with the building dominating the skyline even more for those walking past or living nearby?

In terms of the historic townscape, the real problem is if additions to the building undermines the setting of Christians Kirke and its forecourt and churchyard immediately to the south or dominates and disrupts the buildings along Strandgade … both the historic buildings immediately opposite the narrow end of the building away from the harbour or it dominates or undermines the streetscape from further north from the other side of Torvegade. Strandgade is still, despite losses, the finest group of 17th and 18th-century merchants houses and warehouses in the city and not only its buildings but its wider context should be protected.

It is important to note that when the shipyards closed in the 1990s, the large site that had been engineering workshops and yards was redeveloped with new offices along the harbour and new apartment buildings along the two sides of the site that face towards the canal but the architects Henning Larsen had to respect the level of the cornice of the church - so the distinctive roof and tower of the 18th-century building designed by Nicolai Eigtved were not compromised. It is a pity that the planning restrictions in the 1950s were not as sensitive but surely adding a floor to the building could not mean that two wrongs make a right … or at least in terms of the townscape and roof scape of the city. 


Knippelsbro - the present bridge was designed by Kaj Gottlob

Redevelopment of Torvegade in the 1930s

Redevelopment of the shipyard site by Henning Larsen in the 1990s


Strandgade looking towards the church with the corner of the grey and glass box of the Nordea / Hilton building just visible on the right. This is at the junction where Torvegade, running out from the bridge to the right, crosses over Strandgade and continues on to the left across Christianshavn and on to Amager. One more floor on a large building does not sound excessive but it changes further the dynamic of the street scape and emphasises even more just what a large hole was punched through Strandgade when 17th and 18th-century buildings were demolished to widen Torvegade and to build the approach ramp up to the bridge. It might seem odd to worry about a streetscape that was so drastically altered in the 1930s but the photograph below shows the run of historic buildings that run right up to the church on the opposite side of the road to the hotel. These are of huge historic importance to the city and at the very least deserve respect.

view along Torvegade looking towards the city. The buildings in the distance are an apartment block on the far side of the harbour that survives. The block of buildings in the right half of this view were demolished to construct the south approach to the bridge and the buildings to the left of the trams were on the site of what became the Nordea building and is to become a hotel

headquarters of Danske Bank to move

the frontage along Holmens Kanal from the south ... the major square, Kongens Nytorv, is to the right and Holmens Church and, beyond the church, Christiansborg are to the left 


the square of Kongens Nytorv is to the top right-hand corner and the buildings that are presently occupied by the bank are towards the centre - the arc of buildings above and facing on to the canal on this map drawn in the 18th-century 

the bank from the north - from the edge of the square. The fine house that forms the north part of the present bank  was the mansion of the shipowner Erich Erichsen and was built for him in the 1790s from designs by Caspar Frederick Harsdorff although Erichsen died in 1799 ... before it was finished

Danske Bank is to move from its buildings in the centre of Copenhagen, where they have been based, for almost 150 years.

This move raises some interesting points … not least because it reflects significant and ongoing changes in the financial and commercial history of the city. 

Here, in their present buildings at Holmens Kanal - in a group of major historic buildings to the south of the the great square at Kongens Nytorv - Danske Bank is immediately opposite the National Bank of Denmark and was 200 metres from Børsen - the Borse or Exchange - and barely 250 metres from Christiansborg and all the offices of parliament and, more recently, has been within sight of the rival, Nordea Bank, and the Foreign Ministry on the opposite side of the harbour so this site has been very much at the centre of the political, business and financial life of the city.

But that World runs differently now … there are more players than just the big banks and they are spread across the city and these old buildings, with grand banking halls, no longer seem appropriate for the way that people have to work or do business but I do regret that I will no longer be able to go into the banking hall and sort things out that need to be sorted out face to face.

It’s curious …. we talk about clothes and music and TV or films changing fast because they look dated or unfashionable … but surely a lot of those changes are superficial … about the colour or cut. Much more fundamental changes come through with little more than a shrug. Banking halls with counters where money was paid in or taken out have been phased out over little more than twenty years after being the main interface between a bank and its customer for 200 years or more but the cash machines that first appeared in the 1960s or was it the 1970s … the “hole-in-wall” machines … are already disappearing as we move with little protest to phone or on-line banking and cash-less payments for almost everything. And these are not just quaint details of social history but do have an impact on planning and on the way we use the buildings and streets of our city centres.

And there have been other changes in the way that we live, day to day, that have had a similar impact on the buildings that were once crucial … so the main post office in the centre of the city went over a year ago and, as with these imminent and inevitable changes to the bank buildings, there are also changes to the dynamics of these areas … knock-on consequences in terms of planning not least about how and when people come to these areas. 

There are proposals for a major remodelling of Laksegade - the street immediately behind the present buildings of Danske Bank - which is hardly bustling with life but these are good buildings and provide some areas of quiet that are a counterbalance to wall-to-wall commerce with block after block of shops. One of the really important things that differentiates Copenhagen from so many cities is that so many people live right in the centre and there are areas of relatively quiet and relatively less commercialised life.

This is a complicated group of tightly packed but substantial historic buildings of different dates and different forms so it will be interesting to see the proposed schemes as the bank moves out and the developers move in.

Laksegade from the west with the building of the bank at the far end. This area is to be redeveloped with the bank moving out

a detail to show the amazing quality of the architecture in this part of the city

Laksegade from the north - approaching from Kongens Nytorv - with the bank to the left

The Pot chair by Arne Jacobsen to be relaunched


At the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February, The Republic of Fritz Hansen will relaunch the Pot Chair that was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1959 for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

Fritz Hansen manufactured the original furniture for the hotel including, of course, the famous Egg Chair and the Swan Chair. What now strikes me as incredible is that Jacobsen, with a relatively small design office, worked not only on the building itself - a large, complex building - a high concrete tower using what were then new construction techniques in Scandinavia - but he also designed textiles, cutlery and glassware for the restaurants and an amazing and distinctive range of furniture including bedside cupboards and desks and other fixed furniture in the hotel rooms but also this chair, the Pot Chair, that was used in the bars and lounges of the hotel, and square, almost wedge shaped, upholstered arm chairs and sofas on thin steel legs that he designed for the airport departure lounge attached to the hotel - the 3300 series - another chair that also deserves to be better known. 

Republic of Fritz Hansen