online: 12 may 2006
modified: 11, 12, 15 may 2006

9 may 2006 a designers' paradise

in the guest apartment of the Department of Architecture in Copenhagen

14:04 i'm in a design paradise of the 1950s, a rooftop apartment designed by Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen and other designers* for people invited to lecture at the Department of Architecture in Copenhagen... i sit here on one of the famous Danish chairs looking out through a Mies-like roof terrace (framed as a glass and air box of black-painted steel beams and columns) at a cloudless sky in which just now 10 or so seagulls were gliding and soaring in the rising warm air currents over the city....

...and now (through a chink between steel beams and a brick chimney) i can see the shining golden orb and cross at the top of a church spire... as i wrote the word spire the bell of the church clock chimed once - for a quarter past three.....

...turning to look at the darkened tv screen to my right i can see a miniature view of the rooftops and sky reflected in the curved black glass acting as a convex mirror - a far sharper (and to me more interesting) view than can be seen when a tv is switched on... there is no unseen person directing a camera at what she or he thinks will convey a message designed to attract millions of viewers... i am the only viewer and there is no director of the view (except those designers of 1950s who decided to replace a brick wall by glass and steel... and thus allow the resulting view over the rooftops to be reflected on a tv screen many years later)

Poul Kjaerholm, the designer of the shared living area of the apartment, has placed two pairs of his famous chairs facing each other with a low table (also of steel and glass) between them (the table can be see on pages 22 and 87 of the book mentioned below*)

The chairs and table are placed with geometrical accuracy (perhaps to a centimetre or two) and i feel that moving them to face the tv would destroy the design of this spacious interior with furniture perceived as sculpture, each piece exactly positioned as part of a whole... (though there may have been no tv when the apartment was designed)...

15:58 i'm still sitting on one of those geometrically placed chairs but i've turned to look at an old brick wall (as the bell chimes four o'clock)... much as i like these designs of 50 years ago (of the time when i was young) i like even more the old brick wall, each brick irregularly placed, by hand, and each one compensating for the slight misplacement of the previous ones so that the completed wall approximates to the Platonic accuracy of the architect's intention... brickwork having this digitally adaptive character not shared by designing on a drawing board with mechanical assembly...

At home i have been sitting on the famous 3-legged 'Ant' chair by Arne Jacobsen since the mid-fifties (and now, next day, i am again sitting on one of them as i edit this page in London.

* I was sitting in the common living room with kitchen and roof terrace as one continuous space. It was furnished with design by Poul Kjaerholm... there is a similar room by him on page 150-1 of Poul Kjaerholm, Arkitektens Forlag, 1999, isbn 87 7407 206 4, and pictures of the glass and steel table on pages 22 and 87.

The three guest bedrooms and bathrooms were by Arne Jacobsen, Hans J Wegner and Finn Juhl and each contain chairs and beds and other furniture they designed. I slept in the Finn Juhl bedroom room and found his chair, desk and bed to be closer to my experience of ergonomics than were the designs of the others, good as they were... (but now i remember how, in researches into car seat comfort we used the shaped plywood body of the Jacobsen chair as a baseline for the measurement of comfort. It is better than most chairs i know.

(these pages are designed to be read with the window set to two-thirds of the screen width)

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