Arne Jacobsen and the SAS Royal Hotel, Copenhagen: " Grand Hotel for the jet age "

1 - 29 May 2020

In the late 1940’s, the national airlines of Denmark, Norway and Sweden signed an agreement establishing a joint airline for intercontinental operations. The newly created SAS airline wanted to combine a hotel for tourists with an air terminal that would shuttle travelers to and from the airport via special buses. 

In 1955, Arne Jacobsen was commissioned to design the monumental and ambitious project for the SAS airline: a « Grand Hotel for the Jet Age » in Copenhagen.

The construction was a forerunner as it was Denmark’s first skyscraper, the highest building in Scandinavia and the « world’s first designer hotel ». The SAS Royal Hotel will open in 1960.

 

Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) is one of the most outstanding architects and designers of the 20th century. Best remembered for his simple, yet elegant and functional designs, his work opened the way to modern Danish furniture and the minimalist Danish style. Many of Jacobsen’s best-known pieces had their origin in this architectural commission. 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • « Efficiency plus functionality equals style » 

     

    Arne Jacobsen

  • Giraffe chair, 1958

    Jacobsen  created the Giraffe chair  for the three restaurants of the SAS Hotel in 1959. The design of the chair with its four legs and its high backrest inspired its name. Following Jacobsen’s functionnalist intentions, the shell was tappered to allow easier access for the wait-staff. A series of 120 chairs was uniquely  made for the Royal Hotel as well as 6 sofas that were used as banquettes on the sidewalls of the central dining room. Jacobsen created a stain resistant fabric that would harmonize with the green carpet and gray ceiling of the hotel’s dining rooms. Those exclusive chairs were never produced for the sale to the public. The shell was profiled  with strips of elm that protected the fabric at its thinnest point. 

  • Egg chair, 1958

    Egg chair, 1958

     

    The Egg Chair and the Swan Chair, were both developed especially to furnish the lounge areas and reception of the SAS Hotel in 1958. The design of those two chairs was particularly innovative as all straight lines disappeared in favor of curved ones. Placed in the lobby of the hotel, their curvilinear shapes echoed the spiral staircase and contrasted with the strict lines of the building. The high back of the Egg chairs and their welcoming curves create comfortable cocoons providing a sense of protection and well-being while the Swan opened like a blossoming flower, visually lifting the sitter. The timeless designs of those chairs braved times and they are still two of the most famous chairs of the world to this day.

     

     

     

     

    First edition Egg chair, courtesy Gokelaere & Robinson

  • Lobby of the Royal SAS Hotel Lobby of the Royal SAS Hotel
  • " If a building becomes architecture, then it is art "

    Arne Jacobsen

     
     
  • Wall-mounted unit, 1958

    The consoles that Jacobsen designed for the guest rooms are also a great example of his wish to meld simple beauty and functionnality. For this purpose, he imagined wall-hung modular units standardized into simple boxes of 50 by 50 centimeters. Those shelving units were to be cantilevered from the wood paneling at various heights in the guest rooms. The uniform width of the boxes allow the furnishing to be rearranged or exchanged with any of the other rooms. Those individual boxes could serve a wide range of functions : some were equiped with drawers of various sizes and other incorporated electrical devices such as radio equipment or buttons to summon the hotel staff. Some more elaborated variation of those boxes were dressing tables where the top would opened to reveal a mirror and activate a light or also some other were writing desks. The creation of an adaptable single unit that could be repositionned in a variety of locations perfectly encapsulates Jacobsen’s wish to create a cosy ambiance while maximizing the space with a useful design. 

  • Royal Floor lamp, 1958

    Another noteworthy creation for the Hotel was the Royal Floor lamps, manufactured by Louis Poulsen. Those elegant lamps were to be used in the lobby, the lounges and in every guest rooms of the hotel. The cast base of the lamp mirrors the elliptical shape of the white linen shade mounted on a stainless steel shaft. The two bulbs, one facing downwards and the other upwards, can be switched on in any combination, that is one, the other or both together. 

  • Browse other works by Arne Jacobsen


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    Featured works and images above:

    © The Danish National Art Library, © Images courtesy of The Danish National Art Library, © Mark Hom, © Gokelaere & Robinson