PART OF THE TOTAL DESIGN FORBellevue Theatre
Arne Jacobsen designed the Bellevue chair for the modern setting at Bellevue Theatre.
Arne Jacobsen designed the mid-1930s Bellevue chair for Bellevue Theatre north of Copenhagen. Bellevue Theatre was one of Arne Jacobsen’s earliest total designs, in which he designed both the building and the interior. For the theatre and the adjacent restaurant Arne Jacobsen designed a range of light, modern furniture to match the modernist architecture and the theatre’s function as a summer venue in one of Denmark’s most famous seaside destinations.
The design of the Bellevue chair draws on Chinese inspiration, with an S-shaped splat that follows the curvature of the human body. Arne Jacobsen was introduced to Chinese arts and crafts in Kaare Klint’s furniture school at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts during the 1920s, and this specific chair type probably caught his attention due to its honest and simple construction – a focus that would continue to characterize his approach as a furniture designer.
The chair is the first collaboration between Arne Jacobsen and the furniture company Fritz Hansen. By the 1930s, Fritz Hansen had not yet begun to work with plywood, so the chair’s characteristic splat is constructed of two sections of wood that are glued together, while the rest of the frame is made of steam-bent beech with a seat in stretched leather. It was not until after the Second World War that plywood came into widespread industrial use; this would later form the basis of the groundbreaking shell chairs that Arne Jacobsen co-developed with Fritz Hansen during the 1950s. However, the Bellevue chair illustrates Arne Jacobsen’s early ability to use industrial manufacturing methods to create new and innovative design solutions.
For the theatre and the adjacent restaurant Arne Jacobsen designed a range of light, modern furniture to match the modernist architecture and the theatre’s function as a summer venue in one of Denmark’s most famous seaside destinations.
Bellevue Theatre from 1936 is an early example of how Arne Jacobsen did not simply design buildings but created gesamtkunstwerks, where he designed every last detail, both outside and in. The theatre is the third of the buildings he designed for the Bellevue area along the coastal road Strandvejen during the 1930s. Due to the buildings’ white exteriors, this area also became known as ‘Arne Jacobsen’s white city’.
In his design of the theatre Arne Jacobsen aimed for an expression that would connect the interior space to the coastal landscape outside. The surrounding seaside environment was brought inside by several means, including walls lined with fabric in blue and white stripes and a roof that could be rolled back to let in the sea air. South of the stage tower was the oblong restaurant, where the Bellevue chair was used. The interior of the restaurant was designed with thick bamboo poles and green climbers, while the large window sections took in views of the restaurant garden and the beach. With its white cubist expression and close dialogue with the surroundings, the Bellevue Theatre is one of Arne Jacobsen’s principal early works and a prime example of early functionalist architecture in Denmark.
Sources: Arne Jacobsen Design Archives. / Arne Jacobsen’s drawings. The collection of architectural drawings, The Royal Library – Danish Art Library. / Arne Jacobsen’s scrapbooks. The Royal Library – Danish Art Library. / Stenum Poulsen, K., Skaarup Larsen, A., & Staunsager, S. (2020). Arne Jacobsen – Designing Denmark. Kolding: Trapholt. / Strømberg, U. (2013). Bellevue Teatret : arkitektur og teater i Arne Jacobsens bygningsværk. Nykøbing Sj.: Bogværket. / Thau, C., & Vindum, K. (1998). Arne Jacobsen. Copenhagen: Danish Architectural Press.