The Swan and Egg Chairs are among Arne Jacobsen’s most iconic furniture designs in modern design history. So it may be a surprise to some that Jacobsen considered himself an architect first and foremost. He notoriously disliked the word “designer” and never used it. Considered the most influential Danish architect of the 20th century, Jacobsen left behind a legacy that spans well beyond his well-known furniture designs. According to R. Craig Miller, author of, “Design 1935-1989: What Modern Was,” Jacobsen’s work was “an important and original contribution both to modernism and to the specific place Denmark and the Scandinavian countries have in the modern movement.”
While a student, Jacobsen earned silver and gold medals for his designs. This early success foreshadowed his career as a notable architect and (dare we say) designer. He went on to win the Danish Architect’s Association competition for the “House of the Future” in 1929, which quickly distinguished him as an ultra-modern architect. Soon after, Jacobsen’s design of a seaside resort complex at Bellevue Beach, just north of Copenhagen, put him on the map as the leading proponent of International Modern Style.
In the 1950s, Jacobsen was commissioned to design the “world’s first designer hotel.” From the building to the furniture and the ashtrays to the buses, he designed everything at the SAS Royal Hotel. This included the aforementioned Swan and Egg chairs, which are still on display at the hotel. This project captured international attention, keeping Jacobsen busy for years to come. Aside from architecture and furniture, Jacobsen also designed tableware for Stelton, a company founded by his foster son.
Before his passing in 1971, Jacobsen summed up his design ideology. “The fundamental factor is proportion,” he concluded. “Proportion is precisely what makes the old Greek temples beautiful. And when we look at some of the most admired buildings of the Renaissance or the Baroque, we notice that they are all well-proportioned. That is the essential thing.”