Danish industrial designer and architect, Jacobsen graduated from the School of Architecture at Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1927 and was one of the few Danes who practiced both as an architect and as an industrial designer and can claim international success in both areas. Jacobsen had his own studio from 1929 until his death in 1971 and is one of the most important figures in the Golden Era of Danish Design in the 1950s. Jacobsen was influenced by international tendencies, but remained personal in his designs, and in his building, he managed to fuse the ideas of modernism with regional traditions and materials like yellow bricks. From his debut in 1929 to his later works, Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames inspired him, but his visual language gradually became more international, minimal, strict, and concise. Bricks and wood were replaced by the materials of modernism: steel, glass, and polished stone.
As an architect, Jacobsen was interested in designing new ways of living and working, and in 1929, he won the competition for “the House of the Future” with Flemming Lassen. The drawings for the house marked the introduction of modernist buildings in Denmark and characteristic for the later work of Jacobsen, for example, SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen; Jacobsen—and Lassen—did a total design (Gesamtkunstwerk) including interior, furniture, and textiles. In this, he followed in the footsteps of early modern design pioneers in the twentieth century such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Adolf Loos.
Jacobsen’s most important works as a designer were inspired by Charles and Ray Eames and their experiments with their double-curved steam-bent plywood intended for industrial production. Jacobsen continued the experiments and developed a stackable chair in molded plywood with seat and back in one piece and a slim waistline which gave the chair its name: the Ant. The chair was an example of the minimization of materials characteristic for Jacobsen and it became the first of a series of chairs made in double-curved plywood with legs of tubular steel frame intended for volume production. The sequel Series 7 is even today the most widely sold chair in Denmark and has been produced since the 1950s by the manufacturer Fritz Hansen. Within Danish Design, the Ant marks a shift from craftsmanship and the traditional cooperation between architect and cabinet-maker to everyday mass-market design. Among other famous chairs by Jacobsen are the Swan and the Egg, both designed as part of the interior for SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. The personal interpretation by Jacobsen of the organic shapes so popular in the 1950s in combination with minimalization of material and the effort to design the chairs for industrial production have given the Swan and the Egg the status of modern classics in furniture design.
Jacobsen also designed small-scale industrial products and tableware, for example, the Cylinda-Line series of serving vessels in stainless steel, the Vola series of fittings, and AJ cutlery produced by Georg Jensen. Characteristic of these products are the minimalist use of the steel material and an exploration of geometric forms in the tradition of the Bauhaus. The AJ cutlery was so radical in its form that it was chosen as the cutlery in the science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).