We at Green Bike Tours like to take any good excuse to party and celebrate life and the beautiful city of Copenhagen, even in these very challenging times of global pandemic driven restrictions and limitations!
The occasion comes across the 60th Anniversary of one of the most iconic Danish modernist architectures and the 50th anniversary since the demise of its very creator, the Danish architect Arne Emil Jacobsen.
The SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen
The SAS Royal Hotel, the first design hotel in the world and the absolute first skyscraper of Denmark – still today one of the distinctive landmarks of the skyline of Copenhagen we can look at as one of the main reference points to orientate ourselves when cycling around the city! – was inaugurated in 1960 and imbued with functionalist and modernist spirit in all its constructive and decorative parts, from the big component to the tiniest of the details.
The construction and decorative materials, the colours, the partition of the cladding, the destined to become world acclaimed furniture and lighting elements, exclusively designed for the hotel, as well as the keys and the handles of the doors, and the lettering, altogether contributed organically to the modernist wholeness of the building as the sole expression of the creative genius of one man: Arne Jacobsen.
The story of a man of the world
Arne Jacobsen was born in 1902 in Copenhagen into a wealthy Jewish family. He wanted to be a painter, but his father thought it as more sensible for him to pursue an architecture carrier. After a masonry apprenticeship, he attended the Architecture School at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 1924 until 1927. He stopped working during World War II to go into exile because of his Jewish heritage. With some assistance from the Danish resistance, he rowed a boat to Sweden in order to escape the concentration camps. He spent the next two years in Sweden designing textiles and wallpaper. He once sailed to New York as a sailor, apprenticed himself to a bricklayer in Germany, and repeatedly travelled to Italy to paint accurate, atmospheric watercolours, though while always looking for foreign influences, he never forgot his Danish roots. He was a curios person, in love with nature, and the fascination he could find in the beauty of plants and animals forms and structures. He died in Copenhagen on the 24th of March 1971.
An amazing interior
This fascination with the natural world and the very essence of the materials that characterized in a historical continuum the architecture of the city of Copenhagen as well as the influence Arne Jacobsen was able to exert on the future development of the surroundings of his buildings can still be appreciated visiting the SAS Royal hotel and walking around it. The hotel’s interiors have undergone many renovations and changes of functions, yet some of the original designed sections have been maintained in the original conditions – such the famous room 606 – or brought to new life by contemporary restyling as if Arne Jacobsen himself was in charge of it. We, recalling visiting these precious spaces in the hotel, together with our guests in past tours, can confirm the result is definitely a superb one for everyone who gets to experience them!
No everyone loved it at the time
The SAS Royal Hotel, as well as some previous projects Arne Jacobsen designed and built in the city of Copenhagen, because of its size and style that apparently was in full dissonance with whatever built up surroundings was received with scepticism and negative criticism by many contemporary colleagues of the architect and even by the local population of Vesterbro, notably a working class people area, living in old and overcrowded buildings and used to the more conservative and less impacting cityscape and architectures dating back to the second half of the 19th century; some urban legend even report passers-by lamenting pain at their neck while looking at the top of such an unusually tall building from the street level!
And we may think they were just exaggerating and were not yet capable to appreciate the revolutionary character of such work of architecture or understand how instead the hotel that served also as an avant-garde extension of SAS airlines terminal in the heart of the Danish capital was a heartfelt homage by Arne Jacobsen to the history and constructive tradition of Copenhagen too.
Still a landmark today
However still today in one of those blessed with good weather days, while cycling around the city during why not one of our tours in the vicinity of the hotel, it still hard but of absolute necessity in order to keep safe on the very busy bicycle lanes to keep one’s eyes off the outline of the building against the clear blue sky!!
Are you just thinking you would really like to jump on a plane or a train or a car and come to Copenhagen to experience first hand these Modernist architecture and design masterpieces, understand better what makes Scandinavian modernism so special compared to other regions in the world and how Arne Jacobsen fascination for organic natural forms such a river bent or an egg oval, or animals such as the giraffe, the ant, the swan translated into his work as an architect, but an overwhelming sense of surrender immediately takes over such an irrepressible enthusiasm and turns it off with a bit of frustration, because the time of unconditional travelling wherever you feel like going to is yet to be back due to the current global pandemic restrictions?
We know how you’re feeling. We’re all together in this! But we at GBT believe firmly we all have to be patient and stay positive and creative, and keep on travelling with our thoughts and dreams and planning future escapades from our homes as much as possible for when that time of regained sense of freedom of movement will come! If you are interested in planning a private 2 hours tour focusing on Danish design and architecture with a special focus on Arne Jacobsen – a combined visit to the SAS Radisson hotel and a walking tour – please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To this regard, meanwhile we would like to offer you the possibility of joining us in celebrating those anniversaries with a special live virtual edition of our Danish modernist architecture and design tour from the comfort and safety of your homes, as from the 18th of February 2021. Please check out our homepage for more info about this www.greenbiketours.org or follow us on FB and Instagram where we will keep you posted.
Written by green guide Silvia Giulietti.