For Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects’s centenary this year, the renowned firm collaborated with the Danish design master Carl Hansen & Søn to create a unique collection of Nordic contemporary furniture pieces interwoven with a history of design. Geometric and spatially expressive, with subtly sculpted forms and finite outlines, the designs—taken from the eponymous architect’s own archive—are available for private homes for the very first time.
The collaboration combines the heritage of two established Danish companies—each pioneers in their respective fields—offering pieces with a shared appreciation for natural materials and minimalistic lines, which culminates in their singularly elegant and aesthetic design, crafted with the trademark feature of form after function.
At Carl Hansen & Søn’s flagship store during Copenhagen’s “3 Days of Design,” which took place June 15–17, we spoke to the CEO, Knud Erik Hansen, about their installation entitled “The sound of design.” There, merging old and new, contemporary and classic, were two pieces from Lauritzen’s collection: the VL26 Vega Chair, named after the building for which it was intended; and the Foyer series, delineating a clear purpose of its use.
Bearing names aligned with the simplicity they stand for, the furnishings embodied the sheer elegance of Nordic contemporary design in a suite of iconic functional pieces that, in the architectural sites for which they were drafted, had lasted through generations, completely timeless in their design.
The unpretentious lines favored by Lauritzen, one of Denmark’s most influential architects—whose “architecture and designs,” Hansen says, are intrinsically “part of the Danish cultural heritage and perception of Danish Functionalism” throughout the world—can be found across a large and wide-ranging spectrum of Copenhagen’s architectural and cultural framework. From Copenhagen Airport’s first terminal (1939) to the unique door handles used in it and the ashtrays and railings within some of the city’s most iconic music venues, like Vega and Radiohuset, Lauritzen’s unique modernistic style can be found all over Denmark, including within Carl Hansen & Søn iconic legacy designs.
Carl Hansen & Søn is a third-generation family-owned business with a penchant for partnering with some of Denmark’s most influential figures of modernism. Its catalog counts designers from Hans. J. Wegner to Kaare Kint, who Hansen says had all, in one way or another, been influenced by Lauritzen.
“[He] taught all of the big architects in Denmark,” said Hansen, “to take away everything that wasn’t necessary.” As a professor of sculpture at the Royal Danish Academy, some of his favorite sayings included “Form with function” and “Shape without ornament,” bringing modernism to the forefront of Danish design long after his passing in 1984.
Walking into his terminal in Copenhagen Airport (Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminal), one senses both grandness and humility simultaneously. The subtlety and ease of the effortless designs range from the topology of the space to the lamps and unique doorknobs that inhabit it. Precise in configuration and architecturally driven, pleasing geometric shapes rotate between stairways and columns encompassed within a double-curved ceiling, acoustic in its wave-like dimension. Both contemporary and timeless, his revolutionary approach showcased a majestic beauty that goes hand-in-hand with functionality.
In Lauritzen’s mind, he immersed architecture within the realm of art, calling it “applied art,” with an equal emphasis on applicability and artistry—an uncompromising approach to aesthetics and craftsmanship that matched Carl Hansen & Søn’s in perfect synchronicity. Today, the VLA26 Vega chair, originally designed for the Concert Hall Vega, comes to the market with its visionary design for the very first time. What Hansen calls “a stacking chair with history and character,” its distinctive architectural style is exemplified through uncompromising attention to detail in geometric and sleek forms and figurations. The chair is comprised of steel and wood, draped with or without textile or leather. The back’s dynamic curve gives it a most distinctive character. Made of sleek tactile oak or covered by pastel upholstery, the chair reaches the floor flawlessly with elegantly finished steel legs and wooden feet, giving a more exceptional craftsman-like appearance.
Slender and refined, the chair is made of only natural, responsibly sourced materials. Inconspicuous in any setting, it can fit in any home, any space. “We believe that iconic design is a combination of simplicity, aesthetics, and functionality brought to life through skillful work with the highest quality materials,” said Hansen. Using “nearly every bit of wood we source, we repurpose the little scrap that remains as fuel in a district heating plant that provides warmth to more than 400 local homes in Gelsted, Denmark.”
As for the light and sculptural “Foyer” series, it was designed exclusively for Copenhagen’s heritage-listed Radiohuset building from 1945 and breathes the same Lauritzen language of form, seen across all three items. Consisting of a bench, a sofa, and an armchair, the series pairs refinement with comfort, revealing a distinctive interplay between their oak frame and fabric seats and backs, carefully upholstered in either textile or leather, then finished off with handmade buttons. Following a precise and time-consuming process, the armrests and legs are assembled from three disjointed pieces, which after being hand-polished with the utmost care come together as one without the slightest noticeable disjunction. Slim and minimalistic, the pieces exude elegance without effort, timelessly shaped for life with the embedded elegance of Lauritzen’s signature designs.
“Everything is done by hand: You sand the wood, you upholster it, you weave it,” said Hansen. “There are a lot of skilled workers at hand, and we have 675 of those.”