PART OF THE TOTAL DESIGN FORNational Bank of Denmark
The striking curvature of the Lily chair from 1960 makes it stand out from the large family of shell chairs Arne Jacobsen designed.
The Lily is the last shell chair Arne Jacobsen designed before his death in 1971. The design, which was launched in 1969, is one of Arne Jacobsen’s most expressive, with the most striking contrast between the wide back and the narrow waist. The flowing lines that inspired the chair’s name are particularly pronounced in the version with armrests, which was launched the following year, in 1970.
Both versions, with or without armrests, have been in use at the National Bank of Denmark since 1971. The building is one of the principal works of Arne Jacobsen’s later years, acclaimed as a solemn and monumental addition to the Copenhagen cityscape. Behind its thick walls, the elegant Lily brought an exclusive and artistic touch to the stern, late modernist architecture.
Throughout his life, Arne Jacobsen continued to refine and develop the laminated chair type he had developed in collaboration with Fritz Hansen in the early 1950s. Sixteen years after the presentation of the Ant, Arne Jacobsen designed the Lily, which was a further development of Series 7, and like its predecessor it also came in a version with armrests. The sweeping lines of the shell and the striking curvature of its silhouette lend the design a sophisticated expression that makes it stand out from the large family of shell chairs Arne Jacobsen created. However, the highly tensioned shells pushed the production process to the limit. Many shells were rejected at the factory and had to be scrapped, leading to the design being discontinued in the late 1970s. Since then, Fritz Hansen has relaunched the Lily, initially with padding, later in a model with a walnut face veneer.
The lightweight, functional chair with the distinctive silhouette worked equally well in the ceremonious space of the national bank and in the open, welcoming children’s library.
Characteristically for Arne Jacobsen, the national bank was furnished with his own designs, including many brand new ones, such as the Lily, the VOLA fitting series and the Bankers clock. Architecturally, the national bank is a solemn, closed building with an expression that reflects its key role as the guardian of Denmark’s finances. The solemn atmosphere is repeated in the building’s interior, where the Lily added an artistic touch to meeting rooms and the canteen. Here, the Lily’s free, flowing expression struck an elegant contrast to the strict and rational modular demeanour of the architecture.
During this same period, Rødovre Library also opened; the last in the series of buildings Arne Jacobsen designed for the growing suburb from the 1950s on. For the children’s library he developed a smaller model of the Lily, which is still in use in the library today. Arne Jacobsen’s different uses of the Lily are a good illustration of the versatility of the shell chair and the wide range of environments it fits into. The lightweight, functional chair with the distinctive silhouette worked equally well in the ceremonious space of the national bank and in the open, welcoming children’s library.
Sources: Arne Jacobsen Design Archives. / Danmarks Nationalbank: The Danmarks Nationalbank building (2016). Copenhagen: Danmarks Nationalbank / Stenum Poulsen, K., Skaarup Larsen, A., & Staunsager, S. (2020). Arne Jacobsen – Designing Danmark. Kolding: Trapholt. / Thau, C., & Vindum, K. (1998). Arne Jacobsen. Danish Architectural Press.