In 1956 Arne Jacobsen was commissioned to create the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen; a contract he took on with great gusto and which, true to his understanding of an architect being responsible for the complete composition, saw him not only create a building, but all the fixtures and fittings. Right down to the bath plugs.
While the most famous furniture pieces from the SAS Royal project are without question the Swan Chair and Egg Chair, those who take the time to investigate a little deeper will unearth further gems of Arne Jacobsen design. Works that not only wonderfully represent the various streams of Jacobson’s oeuvre but also make clear just how multifaceted the man was.
Whereas, for example, the aforementioned Swan and Egg represent Jacobsen’s toying with organic shapes, the cutlery he created is pure functionalism. Created in conjunction with the Copenhagen silversmith Anton Michelsen the AJ Cutlery is not only remarkable on account of its flat, almost unworked, appearance, but also on account Jacobsen’s decision to choose stainless steel as a material rather than the more opulent and status giving silver. This “democratising” of the design is then further underlined by its basic, reduced down form reminiscent of primitive eating utensil crafted from wood. And indeed should you ever find yourself using AJ Cutlery take a minute to compare the similarity to modern disposable cutlery: a concept that barely existed in the 1950s and whose form is defined by its temporary nature. We’re not saying Jacobsen predicted the form of disposable plastic cutlery, but….
A further highlight of Arne Jacobsen’s fixtures for the SAS Royal is the AJ Lamp series created in conjunction with Louis Poulsen. Comprising a full set of pendent, wall, standard and table lamps, the AJ Lamp series can in many ways be seen as a further development of a desk lamp Jacobsen developed for Louis Poulsen in 1936. The AJ Lamp takes the same basic form and the concept of “hiding” the bulb deep inside an elongated shade; however, through the funnel form does so with a more, warming, domestic touch. More human as it were. The advantage of the deep-set bulb in a desk/reading lamp is of course that there is no risk of getting blinded through an inopportune seating position or head movement. According to almost all popular literature on and about the AJ table lamp the base originally contained an ashtray in the, now, open circular base. We’ve never found any independent evidence that such ever was the case, and if we’re honest we hope its not true. The open circle is such a delightfully simple design element, it would somehow cheapen it for us to learn it was originally intended for old fag ends.
The AJ Cutlery and AJ Lamps are still in production and so can still be purchased and enjoyed by all. Something that sadly isn’t the case for many of the objects and designs Arne Jacobsen created for the SAS Royal. In particular the delightful “Drop Chair” and numerous of his textile and wallpaper design are no longer available. And because the management of the SAS Royal made the famously idiotic decision in the 1980s to dispose of almost all the original items, unless you’re lucky enough to stay in Room 606 you’ll have to dig around quite hard to find much of the work.
It is however well worth the effort.