Bellevue Theatre is one of the earliest examples of how Arne Jacobsen designed buildings from floor to ceiling.
Bellevue Theatre is one of the principal designs from Arne Jacobsen’s early work and functionalist architecture in Denmark. The summer theatre is the third in a series of buildings with smooth, white-washed exteriors that Arne Jacobsen designed for the area around Bellevue beach in the 1930s and which earned the area the nickname ‘Arne Jacobsen’s White City’.
Bellevue Theatre is one of the earliest examples of how Arne Jacobsen designed buildings from floor to ceiling. He decorated the theatre and its restaurant with specially designed furniture and lamps to match the modern, functionalist architecture and the theatre’s function as a summer stage. The walls of the auditorium were decorated with blue and white stripes that linked the space with the striped lifeguard towers on the beach outside, and on the stage curtain the significant Danish artist Aage Sikker Hansen (1897-1955) painted a modern beach beauty, who appeared to come strolling in from a dip in the sea.
When Arne Jacobsen won the contract to design a new bathing facility for Bellevue Beach in 1932, this marked the beginning of an ambitious development of the whole area. Over the following decade, Arne Jacobsen realized a grand vision that included not only the Bellevue Beach Bath and Bellevue Theatre but several works of architecture that occupy a prominent place in architecture history. In 1934, Arne Jacobsen’s housing block Bellavista was erected across from the Bellevue Beach Bath. Its light expression and functional organization made it a principal example of residential architecture in Denmark during the interwar years. From 1937, motorists were able to fill up the tank at Arne Jacobsen’s futuristic petrol station, and in 1938 new kiosk buildings and a kayaking club were added on the beach itself – all in line with contemporary ideals of health, hygiene and physical activity.
When Arne Jacobsen won the contract to design a new bathing facility for Bellevue Beach in 1932, this marked the beginning of an ambitious development of the whole area.
The overall focus on bringing nature closer to people’s everyday life is evident in the complete facility that was constructed at Bellevue. Here Arne Jacobsen combined leisure, outdoor living and aesthetics with modern, functionalist architecture and a consistent graphic design based on stripes in light blue and white. The Bellavista housing block had large window sections and balconies in a staggered pattern, giving all the flats access to sun and sea air. In the auditorium of Bellevue Theatre, Arne Jacobsen pulled the surrounding coastal environment inside, with theatre seats echoing the movement of the waves, walls lined with cane and canvas in light-coloured stripes and a roof that could be rolled back to allow a free view of light and sky. A place for modern people to enjoy their free time and nature under well-ordered, aesthetic conditions.
With its coherent expression and close dialogue with its surroundings, Bellevue Theatre is an example of the functionalist architecture that was developed in Denmark during the 1930s. The white-washed exteriors, flat roofs and rounded shapes tie the building into the architectural trends that began with the Bauhaus school in Germany, and which Arne Jacobsen helped bring to Scandinavia. The style focused on a clean expression, where function and craftsmanship was to dismantle an outdated focus on decoration and create a new, honest architecture. During the decades after the Second World War, Arne Jacobsen designed additional residential complexes for the area, and although the architectural expression had evolved in the meantime, his aspiration of creating honest, functional architecture remained unchanged. He moved into 413, Strandvejen, where he lived until his death in 1971.
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.