Danish Design Centre celebrates Arne Jacobsen’s 100th
anniversary with the exhibition "Evergreens & Nevergreens - Arne
Jacobsen 100 years".
Exhibition February 11 June 09, 2002
Denmark’s famous architect and designer Arne Jacobsen,
the father of "organic" design, would have celebrated his 100th birthday
in 2002. The Danish Design Centre, Copenhagen, is celebrating him with
an exhibition highlighting his incredible design production. Fittingly,
the DDC exhibition opens on February 11, Jacobsen’s birthday.
From the early 1930s until his death in 1971, Jacobsen designed and built
more than 100 buildings and family houses in Denmark and abroad, including
Copenhagen’s Royal Hotel and Danish National Bank. Yet he may be best
known for his iconic chairs "The Egg," "The Swan" and "The Ant"—still
as fresh and recognizable today as they were when he designed them.
Jacobsen was known for designing both buildings and the things inside
them, from furniture and lamps to door knobs. In fact, the story goes
that he presented his designs for furnishing the Royal Hotel before his
architectural drawings of the building were finalized, thus securing a
contract for designing the interior as well as the exterior of the Copenhagen
With Jacobsen, the genesis of his creations is as significant and illuminating
as the finished product. Thus the DDC exhibition highlights everything
from initial sketches through painstaking production all the way to completion.
His all-encompassing vision and unique working methods are part of what
has helped his work endure.
Many Jacobsen designs still are produced by the original manufacturers.
Companies like Carl F A/S (door handles), Djob A/S (writing desks and
Hansen A/S (furniture), Louis
Poulsen Lighting (lamps), Royal Scandinavia A/S (tabletop products),
Stelton A/S (tabletop), and Vola A/S (fittings) make and sell original
Jacobsen designs, once intended for specific buildings and now available
for home and commercial use.
"The demand for and interest in Arne Jacobsen design has never been higher,
and probably hasn’t peaked yet," says Ulla Hovgaard Ramlau, director of
the Danish Design Centre. "Jacobsen’s work exhibits the very essence of
Danish design. His pieces are evergreen classics for collectors and users
who demand long-lasting quality."
With the exhibition Evergreens & Nevergreens, the DDC
and the seven manufacturers of Jacobsen´s designs highlight the
many industrially manufactured design objects that are "design evergreens"
We know these objects from public places and from our own homes, where
they function equally well, and we live with them, proudly, year after
year, happy that they are still in production, survivors of hardship and
market fluctuations. Thus, new generations are able to build on the design
heritage in their way, creating new connections on the basis of their
individual perception of the essential aspects of Jacobsen´s design.
But, there are also the lesser known objects, the less commercially successful,
the ones that fell behind. These "design nevergreens" have been
invited along to this great "product family celebration" of
Thus, the 100th anniversary brings several nevergreens back into the limelight.
Let it be up to the individual spectator to judge which objects have truly
earned the label "evergreen" and which "nevergreens"
deserved - or did not deserve - being sent off-stage.
Jacobsen´s garden - a labyrinthine walk through shapes
The exhibition structure is based on an abstraction of Jacobsen´s
labyrinthine garden in Søholm, where he lived from the early 1950´s
until his death in 1971.
The garden is an expression of more than just the structural progression,
as Jacobsen´s spirit, field of work and sources of inspiration could
hardly be traced to a more condensed place than the place by the Sound
in Klampenborg. In my next life, I want to be a gardener, he said,
and if a Jacobsen museum were ever to be built, the house and the garden
in Søholm would be the obvious location.
Three archetypal Arne Jacobsen form groups
The exhibition is divided into three main categories within Arne Jacobsen´s
- Natural forms
- Waves and lines
- Geometric forms
Under these headings, we find both the well-known evergreens and the less
known or unknown nevergreens.
"Natural forms" is a category of design with clear organic references.
The shapes are three-dimensional curves that are difficult to draw, and
which are most easily and most accurately rendered through 1:1 models
in plastic materials. Exactly the way a sculptor would approach his work.
The category "Waves and lines" mixes straight lines and curves
and bases the design on complex elements. Here, the same overall uninterrupted
two-dimensional curve is found and repeated time and again in various
design objects: From seats of chairs blending elegantly into backs, to
punched-out items in a very different scale. Sometimes, however, the process
has failed, and curves or lines are broken off in a clumsy way.
"Geometric forms" makes use of simple, primary geometry. Cylinders,
circles, rotational bodies and clean, carved shapes make it easy to see
design ideas related to pipes, disks and other elements for industrial
manufacturing without frivolous frills.
Form discussion and design idioms
Most people get the best grasp of the shape and design idiom of a product
through the interaction between eye and mind. Exhibition texts place the
products in the context of Jacobsen´s design universe, but do not
necessarily provide the final truth on the form itself. Here, the visual
assessment is a much better means for communicating form than the written
The exhibition structure does not correspond to fixed periods when Jacobsen
used a particular style, as is common in the history of art. Jacobsen´s
command of form is so delicate and facetted that it is difficult to apply
a categorisation of form. It would be an oversimplification to imagine
analytically that Jacobsen worked on the basis of pre-conceived shapes.
About the exhibition
With the exhibition Milestones & Evergreens, we focus on six of
the main architectural works of architect and designer Arne Jacobsen,
embedded in a mosaic of the design classics attached to these buildings
and the eras.
Some of the design objects on display have slipped into oblivion, but
most have survived in the marketplace, with or without interruption, and
are still in production. These are the products that have become design
icons and "evergreens".
In the exhibition, the six architectural works are referred to as "milestones":
- The Bellevue area
- The Munkegård School
- Rødovre Town Hall
- SAS Royal Hotel
- St Catherine´s College (UK)
- Danmarks Nationalbank
All these milestones, except St Catherine´s College, are located
in Denmark, in the Copenhagen area.
The travelling exhibition "Milestones & Evergreens" is produced
by the Danish Design Centre for the Danish Secretariat for International
Cultural Relations together with the Danish Centre for Architecture. Manufacturers
of AJ design have kindly made research material and products available
to the exhibition. Arkitektens Forlag has kindly provided scanned images
for the exhibition. The Jacobsen-experts Carsten Thau and Kjeld Vindum
have been involved in the creation of the exhibition concept.