Five international architectural masterpieces by Danish design icon Arne Jacobsen

2017 marks the 90th anniversary legendary Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen’s very first architectural project.

Five international architectural masterpieces by Danish design icon Arne Jacobsen
The National Bank of Denmark, also designed by Arne Jacobsen, shares features with the buildings included on the list. Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Born in Copenhagen in 1902, Jacobsen attended the Architecture School at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 1924 to 1927.

His first architectural project was humble — a single family home in Hellerup, near Copenhagen.

The famous architect is equally well know for his design pieces, having created chair designs that became frontrunners for both Danish minimalistic and functional design. His most critically acclaimed chairs include the Ant, Series 7, the Egg and the Swan.

During his career, Arne Jacobsen created buildings and furniture from the Danish National Bank or SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, to chairs, lamps, door handles and cutlery designs.

Five of Jacobsen’s international works are included in a series of illustrations created by travel company Expedia to showcase architectural giants throughout history.

The illustrations can be explored on the following map, while the five international Arne Jacobsen buildings included are listed below.

1) Skovshoved Petrol Station, Denmark

Photo: Christian Lylloff/Wikimedia Commons

In 1938, Arne Jacobsen was hired by gas company Texaco to design a new standard of gas stations, although only one model made it into production.

The building’s nickname “Paddehatten” or “The Mushroom” comes from its trademark ellipse-shaped roof. This design was later used as inspiration for Jacobsen’s famous 1952 Ant chair which had similar shaped backrests.

Still standing and in full operation, the only thing to change about this petrol station in all of those years has been the additional petrol pumps. The building itself is now an ice cream shop.

2) St. Catherine's College, Oxford, UK

Photo: Kenneth Yarham/Wikimedia Commons

In 1960, Arne Jacobsen was invited to design St. Catherine's College – the University of Oxford's first new college in almost 100 years. 

Despite being one of the newest colleges at Oxford, the site has already found its place in history, earning a ‘Grade I’ listing in 1993.

3) Central Bank of Kuwait

The former Central Bank of Kuwait’s compositional approach bears resemblance to the Danish National Bank – another of Jacobsen’s designs.

In the period from 1986-1990 the building saw major reconstruction, although it kept its original shape. In 2005, workers broke ground on a brand new HQ building to meet the demand of its expanding operations. The New HQ officially opened in April 2017. Jacobsen’s building remains in use, but looks radically different from its appearance during its heyday.

4) Landskrona Sports Hall, Sweden

Despite having fled to Sweden during World War II to live until its conclusion, Jacobsen's work did not reached Sweden until before 1965, when he won a competition to design Landskrona Sports Hall.

5) Town Hall Mainz, Germany

Photo: MzMzMz/Wikimedia Commons

The Town Hall in Mainz, Germany was the final project Arne Jacobsen completed before he died in 1971 – designed with his colleague Otto Weitling.

READ ALSO: Eight incredible buildings that prove wood is good


How a Viking king inspired one of our best-known modern technologies

A Swede and American tell the story of how they hatched the idea for the moniker 'Bluetooth' over beers.

A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth
A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

At the end of the 1990s, Sven Mattisson, a Swedish engineer working at telecom group Ericsson, and Jim Kardach, an American employed by Intel, were among those developing the revolutionary technology.

In 1998, at the dawn of the “wireless” era, the two men were part of an international consortium that created a universal standard for the technology first developed by Ericsson in 1994.

But prior to that, they had struggled to pitch their wireless products. Intel had its Biz-RF wireless programme, Ericsson had MC-Link, while Nokia had its Low Power RF. Kardach, Mattisson and others presented their ideas at a seminar in Toronto in late 1997.

“Jim and I said that people did not appreciate what we presented,” Mattisson, now 65 and winding down his career at Ericsson, recalled in a recent interview with AFP.

The engineer, who had travelled all the way to Canada from Sweden for the one-hour pitch, decided to hang out with Kardach for the evening before flying home.

“We received a lukewarm reception of our confusing proposal, and it was at this time I realised we needed a codename for the project which everyone could use,” Kardach explained in a long account on his webpage.

‘Chauvinistic story’

To drown their sorrows, the two men headed for a local Toronto bar and ended up talking about history, one of Kardach’s passions. “We had some beers… and Jim is interested in history so he asked me about Vikings, so we talked at length about that,” said Mattisson, admitting that his recollection of that historic night is now somewhat foggy.

Kardach said all he knew about Vikings was that they ran “around with horned helmets raiding and looting places, and that they were crazy chiefs.”

Mattisson recommended Kardach read a well-known Swedish historical novel about the Vikings, entitled “The Long Ships”.

Set in the 10th century – “a chauvinistic story” about a boy taken hostage by Vikings, says Mattisson – one name in the book caught Kardach’s attention: that of the king of Denmark, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

A Bluetooth adapter from 2004. Photo: Stefan Gustavsson/SvD/TT


An important historic figure in Scandinavia in the 10th century, the king of Denmark’s nickname is said to refer to a dead tooth, or, as other tales have it, to his liking for blueberries or even a simple translation error.

During his reign, Denmark turned its back on its pagan beliefs and Norse gods, gradually converting to Christianity.

But he is best known for having united Norway and Denmark in a union that lasted until 1814.

A king who unified Scandinavian rivals – the parallel delighted those seeking to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.

And the reference to the king goes beyond the name: the Bluetooth logo, which at first glance resembles a geometric squiggle, is in fact a superimposition of the runes for the letters “H” and “B”, the king’s initials.

Low-cost and with low power consumption, Bluetooth was finally launched in May 1998, using technology allowing computer devices to communicate with each other in short range without fixed cables.

The first consumer device equipped with the technology hit the market in 1999, and its name, which was initially meant to be temporary until something better was devised, became permanent.