St Catherine's College

DR - Danish Broadcasting Corporation - are showing the British crime series Endeavour but retitled here in Denmark as Unge Morse or Young Morse.

Set in Oxford in the 1960s, this is the prequel to the very popular detective series Inspector Morse that was made for ITV and broadcast in England through the 1990s.

This episode of Unge Morse - Bytte or Game - plays out around a chess match between a Russian Grand Master and a computer developed in Oxford.

The computer is pretty amazing - all reel-to-reel tapes and green screens and of course not a UI in sight and, for its architecture, there is an interesting role for a public swimming pool but the star of the programme this week is actually a building designed by Arne Jacobsen … St Catherine's College in Oxford although for the TV drama it becomes Lovelace College.

St Catherine’s was completed in 1964 but retains much of the original furniture and light fittings by Jacobsen so look out for the Series 3300 in a corridor and, of course, the high-backed chairs in plywood designed by Jacobsen and made by Fritz Hansen for the high table of the great hall and now known as the Oxford Series.

 

a change of sign ….

Back last August, I wrote a post about the new 7-Eleven store that had opened on Gammel Torv on the ground floor of the Stelling building by Arne Jacobsen … or, rather, the post was about the signage that I described then as a travesty.

This week I was cutting up through the square and realised that all the signs have been changed and the original facing above the shop windows appears to have been restored so, credit where credit us due, this a huge improvement.

I would be curious to find out when the signs were changed and if there had been lobbying or pressure on the company from the public or from the planning department.

the post in August 2018

the Stelling building by Arne Jacobsen

 

a reminder of what went up in August ….

major restoration at the National Bank of Denmark

 

It has just been announced that the building of the National Bank of Denmark in the centre of Copenhagen - designed by Arne Jacobsen and completed in 1978 - has to undergo an extensive programme of repairs. As this will take several years, the bank and it's staff are to move out of the building until the works are completed.

 

Arne Jacobsen at Designmuseum Danmark

the newly repainted and rearranged display in the Jacobsen gallery at Designmuseum Danmark - the chair standing on the floor is The Ant designed in 1952 and in the case above, against a reproduction of the design Spirea from 1954, the Cylandline range from 1964-1967

The House of the Future designed by Arne Jacobsen with Flemming Lassen for an exhibition in 1929

 

Sometimes it can be as interesting to look at the display cases and the style of the information labels and the lighting in a museum as it is to look at objects on display … and, for obvious reasons, more so when you are in a design museum.

At Designmuseum Danmark they have a space dedicated to furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen. I'm not sure of the date of this display but I would guess that it is over twenty years old.

It is a substantial structure and is itself quite a design item so I can see exactly why it should be kept.

The space is actually square and is on a main through walk down the right-hand range of the museum but under a false ceiling, lit to throw light down into the space, there are three curved areas with raised platforms to make the space circular and that is where furniture by Jacobsen is displayed and there are two large shallow display cases recessed into the walls plus wall space for photographs and panels. These curved platforms pick up shapes in the House of the Future that was designed by Jacobsen in 1929 - in partnership with Flemming Lassen - and as the display includes a copy of a drawing for that house so the echo must be deliberate.

The advantage of this form of display is that the furniture is lifted clear of the floor, giving the pieces at least some protection, but the pieces can still be examined up close and raised up so anyone interested can see some of the details of the construction particularly on the underside.

 

earlier in the summer:
the chairs for St Catherine’s College Oxford; the chairs for the SAS Royal Hotel and a Grand Prix designed in 1957 and The Giraffe for the dining room of the SAS Royal Hotel

photographed this month:
desk and chair for Munkegård Elementary School; The Egg, a Swan Chair and The Drop for the SAS Royal Hotel designed in 1958; an Ant Chair from 1952 and the Skovsneglen / Paris Chair by R Wengler designed by Jacobsen in 1929

 

Display case with flatware AJ designed in 1957, a lamp for St Catherine’s College and the Vola range of taps from 1969

Cylinda line - ‘hollowware’ designed in 1967 and produced by Stelton

Jacobsen is without doubt one of the most important designers from the classic period of modern Danish design in the 20th century and is certainly the Danish designer who the most foreign visitors will know at least something about so I can see exactly why he is given this special treatment.

A recent remodelling of a space further along the same gallery pulls together in one place some of the works in the collection by Kaare Klint but presumably it is felt that to separate out other individual Danish architects or designers for the same treatment would be too greedy on space and make the museum displays rather too fixed in the works and the themes that they explore.

The Jacobsen gallery has just been redecorated and looks good for its fresh coat of paint and for the replacement of photographs that had begun to curl at the edges. What is more interesting is that some of the furniture has been moved around and new pieces brought in so chairs designed by Jacobsen for St Catherine's College in Oxford in the 1960s have been removed. These were less obvious key pieces in the history of Danish design although they show the most refined and most sophisticated use of plywood for furniture in any designs by Jacobsen. They have been replaced with a chair and a desk and a sample of the fabric designed by Jacobsen for Munkegaard Elementary School in the early 1950s.

The main chairs that Jacobsen designed for the SAS hotel in Copenhagen remain - the Egg, the Swan Chair and the Drop - all still in production sixty years later - but the Giraffe Chair that Jacobsen designed at the same time for the dining room of the hotel has gone back to store which is a pity because it shows a very different style and form of chair but just one that did not receive the same popular acclaim as the other designs.

My one criticism of the display is that it shows the ever-present Danish understatement and modesty about what Danish design did and does achieve.

The display cases show the cutlery and the glassware and lighting and so on that Jacobsen designed for the SAS Hotel and there is the absolutely remarkable thing. Arne Jacobsen designed the SAS Hotel, and the air terminal that was originally in the same building, in a style and with a method of concrete pouring that was barely known in Scandinavia and untried at the time in Copenhagen so just for the building design and construction a huge challenge. It is known that Jacobsen had a small drawing office - certainly very small by modern standards - and the core team was actually working in an office in his own home outside the city in Klampenborg in a way he had developed in both the first and the second house as well as this the third house he designed for himself and his family. Yet at the same time, and in a remarkably short period, he designed not just a complicated and challenging building, but also all the furniture including six chairs, at least two of which became truly iconic designs and four of which used innovative materials for an almost unique form of shell design (the first chairs were made with expanded polystyrene)  and he designed carpets, upholstery textiles and all the tableware needed for a large hotel and all equally innovative and all in a period of about five years.

This work by Jacobsen for the SAS Hotel is often described as a good example of gesamtkunstwerk - total design - but even in Denmark that should be taken to be a bit of understatement. Surely the hotel and its interior should be lauded as one of the most incredible personal achievements by any architect in the 20th century.

Designmuseum Danmark

 

a special edition of The Egg

my thanks to staff of Fritz Hansen in Valkendorfsgade in Copenhagen for allowing me to photograph the chair and for the time we spent discussing the work of Jacobsen and the designs and colours of the Hallingdal range

 

The Egg in suede at the Copenhagen store but showing clearly the same strong and more sculptural look seen when the chair is covered with leather

To mark the anniversary of The Egg - Arne Jacobsen designed the chair for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen in 1958 - Fritz Hansen have released a special version covered in the Kvadrat fabric called Hallingdal that was designed by Nanna Ditzel in 1965 … a textile that is not as well known or as easily recognised outside Denmark but, like the chair itself, a design classic that has been in continuous production since it was launched. 

Although I can’t know the real figures, there is a very good chance that more people have sat on a chair covered with Hallingdal - without realising what they were sitting on - than have sat in an Egg chair … in the late 60s and through the 1970s for its well-deserved reputation for being hardwearing and for the range of colours it was the go-to fabric for upholstery for commercial seating for office chairs, chairs for schools, and seating for doctors’ and hospital waiting rooms.

It was a revelation seeing the chair covered in Hallingdal in the Copenhagen showroom of Fritz Hansen. 

Now we tend to know The Egg in the version covered in leather emphasising the bold sculptural quality of the design and often making the piece in a room a sort of statement of status. However, covered in a fabric, particularly in a soft natural colour, the chair immediately looks more subtle, more discrete, more inviting and comfortable and, curiously, smaller.

Initially, Jacobsen wanted these chairs in the hotel to be covered with leather but for fairly obvious economic reasons had to agree that chairs used in hotel rooms would be covered in fabric. He designed a relatively heavy fabric in a mix of the deep blue and green shades he often used but also gave it a stronger texture with distinct wavy lines through the weave.

The Hallingdal fabric is actually a bit of a chameleon for it takes on very different characteristics depending on the combination of colours … in natural greys or browns or creams used in combination then it looks like a Harris Tweed but with contrasting colours for warp and weft it gains a sharp pin or small check pattern that is quite sassy and in strong bold single colours - for instance a strong red - then an Egg can look just as powerful and assertive as when the chair is covered with leather.

This shows that even when a form is as bold and as distinctive as The Egg, colour and texture are incredibly important in reinforcing the character of the design or modifying it and toning it down.

note:
I understand this special edition is currently available only in Denmark

Kvadrat

Republic of Fritz Hansen

 

a travesty

 

 

The Stelling Building on Gammeltorv in Copenhagen has new tenants with a new 7ELEVEN store on the ground floor. 

On a prominent site on a major historic square and on the route up to the cathedral, this building was commissioned by the Stelling Paint Company and was designed by Arne Jacobsen and completed in 1937. It was one of the first truly modern buildings in the centre of the city.

Obviously, for its present use, there are new fittings inside for food, take-away coffee and snacks but the most recent additions have been corporate shop signs on the outside.

There is a hefty new banner or long horizontal sign in the company branding that wraps around the corner above the shop windows and it projects forward of the facade because it is back lit. There are also two large, double-sided, illuminated square signs that project out from the frontage - one to Gammeltorv and one to the cross street Skindergade.

Look at historic photographs and you can see that the building and its tile cladding was designed with considerable care and with precise proportions and with high-quality and elegantly thin fittings. All in all, a very sophisticated building and yet this company sees it necessary, for commercial reasons, to desecrate the design. 

For a start, just what damage has been done to the historic fabric and the original facing materials when the signs were fixed? In any work, on any major historic building, the rule should be that alterations and additions are not intrusive and should be reversible so could be removed without leaving evidence or causing damage.

The tenants will argue that this work was necessary to ‘attract’ customers but the argument should have been that if the building could not be occupied successfully without doing this then it was not an appropriate building for their use.

The design of the Stelling Building was innovative and even controversial at the time. The severe style might not make it immediately obvious that this is a major historic building and, even now, it might not appeal to all tastes but those are not good reasons for allowing this to happen. 

It is a significant failure of the planning process in the city when this happens to such an important building by such an iconic Danish architect.

 

an earlier post about the Stelling Building

 

Stelling Building, Gammeltorv 6, by Arne Jacobsen

  1. from Nytorv, looking north across Gammeltorv towards Vor Frue Kirke with the people in the foreground walking along Strøget

  2. from the west looking across the top of the square and down the first part of Skindergade

  3. the main entrance into the shop on the corner

 
 

The Stelling building on Gammeltorv in Copenhagen has been empty and shuttered and seems to be waiting for a new tenant. Designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1934 and finished by 1938, it must be one of his least well known and least recognised buildings. 

It is actually on a major square in the centre of Copenhagen - Gammeltorv - but is at the top north-east corner and most people - huge numbers of people - cut straight across the centre of the public space as they walk along Strøget or The Walking Street. 

There is only a short frontage to the square itself but a long front to Skindergade … a narrow street that continues the line of the top edge of the square on eastward. Possibly the best initial view is to approach the square along the top from the west by walking along Vestergade that runs up to Gammeltorv from the top of the main square in the front of the city hall. 

Nørregade, that runs north from the top corner of the square, is much more important as a street because it takes you from Gammeltorv to Vor Frue Kirke - the cathedral - and then on to the railway and metro station at Nørreport but it is a relatively narrow street and the Jacobsen building, with its rounded corner, is not prominent from the pavement as you enter or as you leave the square along this east side.

Nor is it, perhaps, the easiest building to appreciate in terms of its style and it is probably not a surprise to find that it was heavily criticised when it was completed - one article even implied that Jacobsen should not be allowed to design anything else in the city.

The building was designed for the paint company Stelling to replace a much older store on this site. Their new building had display show rooms on the ground and on the first floor - in part to make the most of a fairly restricted and narrow plot - and with almost unbroken glazing to the square and to Skindergade on both floors. The interiors and fittings were all by Jacobsen including unique pendant lighting made by Louis Poulsen that was used both in the windows and above curved counters in front of shelving across the back walls.

Above, there are three upper floors of offices that over sail the glass walls below and are stark and almost top heavy - faced with large plain square ceramic tiles - 53cm x 53cm -  so the weight seems to hover over the glazed void below. There is no decoration and no architectural features - such as bands or cornices - to break the severity and no architraves to the windows with only minimal frames and no subdivisions of the glass so when the rooms behind are unlit then the windows look like blank holes punched through the wall.

Should this be seen as Jacobsen designing an industrial building or at least a deliberately and obviously functional building for retail in what was then the heart of the historic centre? The main structure is in concrete and the facing of the pillars is actually iron sheet that is painted grey so the contrast with the Renaissance grandeur of adjoining and nearby buildings could hardly be more marked.

Certainly it is a building that deserves much more attention and surely the long-term plan should be to find a way to restore the interior to its original form - the original teak and mahogany counters and shelving have all been removed.

approaching the square from the north, from Vor Frue Kirke, with just the edge of the Stelling building visible on 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

1958 was a good year for design

the display at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen with the three famous chairs that Arne Jacobsen designed in 1958 for the SAS Royal Hotel with the floor-standing lamp from the same year

 

This year - through 2018 - Fritz Hansen will mark the 60th anniversary of the furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

The Egg and The Swan were shown to the public for the first time at the Formes Scandinaves exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in November 1958 and at the showroom of Fritz Hansen in January 1959. The hotel was completed and opened in 1960.

Furniture was produced by Fritz Hansen for the 275 rooms and for the public spaces of the hotel - perhaps the most significant contract for any major modern furniture company. 

Fritz Hansen has just released a limited edition of The Egg and there will be anniversary editions of The Drop chair in September and of The Swan in December.

The hotel is one of the most important examples of what German critics describe usefully as Gesamtkunstwerk or total design. These chairs, on their own, would be considered as outstanding designs but Jacobsen, with a small design team - the studio was in his own home - produced the designs for the building; the interior designs for complex public spaces including the lobby with its circular staircase and the large transit hall for the airline; designs for all the architectural hardware including door handles and stair rails; a phenomenal range of furniture including several other chairs, tables, bedside cupboards; rugs; light fittings and even the glassware, silverware and cutlery for the dining room. A truly remarkable achievement.

Republic of Fritz Hansen

New Year resolution? ... putting a design classic through its paces

image from COACH fitness magazine

 

I'm not sure that this is what Arne Jacobsen had in mind when he designed the chair but I guess this is one way to get rid of all those calories put on over Christmas. Is this what is called an incline press or is it a weird plank?

What is it with the English and Chair 7? Christine Keeler sat on it the wrong way round although, as that chair was a fake, does it still count as sacrilege?

a cleaner and much more elegant SAS Hotel

 

The SAS building - the hotel in the centre of Copenhagen that was designed by Arne Jacobsen - is being cleaned. 

That odd yellow grey green colour on the panels - presumably from air pollution - is being washed off and what has been revealed underneath is the soft grey-blue cloudy-sky colour of the panels that makes the tower look much more elegant and much more subtle. 

It might seem odd to talk about the design of such a large building as subtle but cleaning has restored a sharper, graphic character to the design - so that it is seems less about mass or volume - and the colour revealed restores a crucial relationship to the sky and to the reflection of clouds because from immediately below or from a distance the tower is seen against the sky rather than alongside or against other buildings.

 

see also:

geometry and proportion in buildings by Arne Jacobsen

the house of Arne Jacobsen and a rare opening to the public

In 2005 Realdania purchased the house in Gotfred Rodes Vej that Arne Jacobsen designed and had built for himself and his young family in 1929. The house has been restored and many features returned to the original arrangement. The house is normally occupied by tenants so access for the public is rare but the villa was opened for two days on the 11th and 12th of February.

Gotfred Rodes Vej 2