At the relaunch of the iconic Oksen chair, Christian Andresen, head of design for Fritz Hansen, remembers one of the greatest Danish designers and architects Arne Jacobsen was at the time, and probably is still, only one of a handful of Danish architects and designers who ventured beyond Denmark. A total designer – he was interested in everything, from objects and furniture to landscape and urban planning – he brought Danish design to an international audience.
Jacobsen was educated at the Danish School of Architecture at a time when the old masters of architecture – those who had grasped an industrial way of thinking about design during the 20s and 30s, and had pioneered Bauhaus-inspired Danish architecture – were teaching there. It was a breeding ground for some of the best designers to have come out of Denmark and yet, of his contemporaries, such as Jørn Utzon who designed the Sydney Opera House, Jacobsen was probably the most talented.
Both an academic designer and an architect, Jacobsen both made projects with contractors and clients on a professional level, and had a love for experimenting with shape. It was this approach that would transpire with Fritz Hansen. Hansen’s forward-looking son, Christian, and Jacobsen both had a passion for new technology and an interest in how designers like Charles and Ray Eames were making furniture in the US with plywood.
The ambition of Jacobsen was to do a one piece chair and in developing the technology to produce this – a mould that can press a two-dimensional shape into a three-dimensional shape – the core of our business was founded. We are slow making products compared to our competitors, but we want to challenge, and that always puts a lot of love and frustration into project. The way that Jacobsen and Hansen worked together has become part of our culture.
The Oksen chair took Jacobsen six years, and a lot of hard work at the company, to produce. He would die in 1971 and it was the last big project he worked on. I thought it was about time that we showed it off.