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 landmark.

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 tables), Fritz 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" today.

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 Jacobsen´s anniversary.

Homecoming nevergreens
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 universe:
- 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 word.

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.