Arne Jacobsen chairs

Danish design & architecture

Functional. Edgy. Timeless. Minimalistic. Quality. Danish design, whether it is furniture or clothing, is known all over the world for its clean, simple lines, great materials and classic creations that never go out of style. On a larger scale, the recent architectural boom in Copenhagen is inspired by light, water, open spaces and sustainability.

Originally, Danish design was a product of the 1950s. The post-war period experienced a lack of materials, and therefore durability and high quality was in demand. Design in this period was thus characterised by simple design, functionality and minimalism.

Danish design is simply made for living. In fact, Copenhagen is home to the biannual INDEX: Award, which  is not only the biggest design award in the world, but probably also the most important. The importance of INDEX: Award lies in the unique, over-arching theme of Design to Improve Life – a concept which has established INDEX: Award as a global, inspirational design beacon.

Some of the most prominent Danish designers from the mid-century period, Georg Jensen, Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobsen, just to name a few, all made Danish design popular on the international scale. Today’s designers, such as Louise Campbell, HAY, Normann Copenhagen, Cecilie Manz and Muuto, all draw on elements of the Danish design classics of the post-war era.

Read our guide to top 10 Danish design.

Denmark has gradually risen to a high level of fashion consciousness too with shops and fashion designers such as Mads Nørgaard, Henrik Vibskov, Stine Goya and Wood Wood to match. Ever heard of the term democratic fashion? It covers wearable and high quality clothes, which are affordable to most. Not many places can boast of having so many mid-priced shops with quality fashion as Copenhagen.

Read our guide to top 10 Danish fashion.

A history of functionalism

When it comes to Danish architecture, the 1930s introduced rational architecture of concrete, glass and iron, designed to meet the social needs of the time. It later evolved and blended with characteristics from modernism such as using irregular ground plans, open plan interiors, flat roofs and glass facades.

As if designing furniture was not enough, many of the great Danish designers of the 1950s were also great architects. Arne Jacobsen became the leading architect in Denmark in the post-war era with the Bellavista houses north of Copenhagen, the town hall of the Copenhagen suburb Rødovre and the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, which he designed outside and inside, down to the silverware used in the restaurant, making it the very first design hotel in the world.

Arne Jacobsen room at Radisson Blu Royal Hotel

In the 1960s, Danish architects entered the world scene following Arne Jacobsen’s example. Most notably is Jørn Utzon’s iconic Opera House in Sydney, now a World Heritage Site, Henning Larsen’s Foreign Ministry building in Riyadh.

Light, water, open spaces and sustainability

Today the cityscape in the centre of Copenhagen is dominated by four to six-storey buildings rather than the typical glass and steel skyscrapers found in many other capital cities. However, the city is far from an architectural standstill. Contemporary architectural additions to the city are shooting up everywhere and manage to blend in beautifully with the old historic buildings and palaces.

VM Mountain residence, photo by Ty Stange

Light, water, open spaces and sustainability are the key elements in the recent architectural boom in the Danish capital. The emergence of bold urban planning and world-class architecture is found in four key parts of the city, namely Ørestad, Nordhavn, city centre and not least along Copenhagen’s waterfront. The proximity to and reflection of the water in these new buildings are a common characteristic.

Read our guide to top 10 architecture.

Designed for life

The new constructions are designed for cultural, residential and business purposes, but most importantly for life – and for people. On top of the look and feel of the buildings, the functionality and interaction between people have been top of the architects’ minds.

Tietgenkollegiet residence | Photo: Nicolai Perjesi

Good examples of that are Tietgenkollegiet and 8-Tallet – both residential buildings that are constructed to bring people together. One of the super stars of Danish architecture in the 21stcentury is Bjarke Ingels, whose architectural foot prints are all over Copenhagen. BIG  (Bjarke Ingels Group) has designed 8-Tallet, VM Houses, VM Mountain and Superkilen urban park in Copenhagen, to name a few.

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Danish design shops

Functional. Elegant. Timeless simplicity. Danish Design is all those things and more. Here is our shopping guide to the best interior design stores.