Retrofuturism meets Danish Simplicity

Arne Jacobsen's Designs for the SAS Royal Hotel

Arne Jacobsen designed the AJ Pendant lamps exclusively for the SAS Royal Hotel, which opened in 1960 and was Copenhagen's first skyscraper. The building was inspired by the Lever House in New York designed by Gordon Bunshaft at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.  The International Style the structure imitated caused controversy; Danish citizens worried that an essential nationalist quality was being lost and that Jacobsen was trying too hard to emulate the stark sheen of American metropolises. 

The exterior of the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, c. 1960

Despite the austere façade, the interior, also completely designed by Jacobsen, was populated with his organic-inspired furniture in simplified forms and natural, subdued shades of green. The spaces featured the Pot Chair, Swan Chair, Series 3300 sofa, lighting, flatware and even doorknobs, all designed by Jacobsen. Bronze versions of the AJ Pendant lamp would have been featured in the common areas of the hotel and air terminal, echoing the geometric specificity of the futuristic motif used on the exterior and in the small details of the hotel. Banded slats at the top of the shade allowed for softer light diffusion. 

Common area behind the Winter Garden at the SAS Royal Hotel

The hotel still stands today, though as the Radisson Collection Hotel. All but one space—Room 606 (which can be booked by guests)—has been redesigned. 

Arne Jacobsen 1902–1971

Arne Jacobsen was an architect and designer who approached his work from both perspectives, making major contributions to Functionalism and Danish Modern style. Born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, he won the silver medal for his chair design at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1925 while an architecture student at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. After winning the Danish Architect’s Association competition for his House of the Future design, he opened his own office in 1929. Jacobsen was forced to flee to Sweden in 1943 following the rise of the Nazi party, but later returned to Denmark ushering in a wave of landmark public and private commissions.

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