1952 1955 1955 1955 1955 1957 1968 1970


Christine Keeler, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Big Brother would not have been the same

, WW

Htih 'li’tltl

without him. Even Homer Simpson got in on the act. 80 100 years after his birth, what makes ARNE JACOBSEN so special? Words: Tim Abrahams

t is a chair to spill your guts in. Known to most of the {K

as ‘that chair from the Big Brulllt'l‘ diary room'. but to

design students as the work of the great Danish designer Arne Jacobsen. the ligg (as it is affectionately known) has been trsed by many but never has it been used so cleverly. The curved back of the chair looks like arms reaching out to offer succour to the emotional housemates. ‘Sit down here. Tim’. it would‘ve whispered. ’Tell us what‘s on your mind.‘

L'nlike most chairs. which you sit Hit. the ligg is designed to he sat in. Once nestled in. the chair shrouds the sitter like a comforting cloak. ‘You tell the nice little camera. all about it.‘ it would have said. ‘Tcll trs what a hunch of twats you really think they are.‘

()bviously Jacobsen. whose work is being celebrated at the Lighthouse in a major centenary show exclusive to (ilasgow. did not design the ligg for such uses. This modernising Dane. who created his most endearing designs in the post-war Scandinavian spirit of progressive social democracy. would

have had difficulty foreseeing the other design requirements of

the Big Brother house. (‘Yeah Arne. I know you want to create environments in which human beings can engage with each other lutrmoniously. btrt we‘d actually prefer to see them shouting at each other. So could you go back to the drawing board and find some way of dividing the rich side from the poor side which creates the utmost degree of conllict'.’ Maybe some bars'.")

Born in (‘openhagen in 1902. Jacobsen rose to prominence in IUZ‘) when he designed a house of the future. a show home for a large housing exhibition. l'nlike the Big BI‘UI/It’l' house. designed with optimum surveillance in mind. the idealistic but

fun-loving Jacobscn unveiled his tongue-in-cheek model of

optimism in the same week that the Wall Street crash occurred. Constructed from concrete and fitted with tubular steel and glass furniture bttt adorned with helipad on its roof. it scared the life out of a Danish public who hadn‘t come into contact with the new methods ofconstruction brought in by advances in the steel

and glass industries. It was. he later admitted. ‘a joke’.

Despite being forced to spend live years in Swedish exile when the Nazis occupied Denmark. Jacobsen always maintained an optimism about society that was reflected in a series of post-war designs. Architects of the time tended to produce. as they still do now. designs from which the human scale had been effectively erased. Jacobsen was always interested in making things more manageable. more human. The ligg. for example. was originally used in the aquamarine foyer of one of his masterworks the Royal Hotel in (‘openhagen (now the Radisson SAS Royal) completed in l‘)(i(). Locals gave the building‘s tall form the pejorative nickname of the punch card (‘That is actually what it looks like when the windows are open on a hot summer‘s day.‘ he admitted later) but inside things were different.

()riginally in green. the chairs formed curved islands of privacy in a forebtxling 50s environment of steel and glass. The combination was typical of a man who was a perfectionist in the office yet playful and relaxed outside it. What the designer Verner Panton remembered about his period of training under .lacobsen was that his boss ‘wasn't always on his best behaviour" in the office. He had a reputation for making high demands on his staff and bullying manufacturers and sub-contractors.

()utside it. however. his major hobby was botany. His home boasted 300m sq of walled garden where he would escape the world of industrial design. occasionally offering the explanation: ‘l'm choking on aesthetics.’ His own atrium was a model for similar walled gardens in buildings such as the .\'yager School and the Danmarks Nationalbank.

It was also an important source of inspiration for the forms of his furniture. It is no coincidence that the chair designs for which he is known internatiomtlly the vast majority of his building designs were constructed in Denmark bear the names of forms from the world of nature: the ligg. the Swan and the Ant. As a result .lacobsen‘s' forrns have an ageless appeal to them. although they also caught the spirit of the times.

The producers wanted her nude, Keeler wanted to keep her modesty intact, the photographer struck upon a compromise

5'). 1‘.) Sop 9.002 THE LIST 15