Do you remember that idealistic image of the 21st century? In the 60s, everyone thought the new millennia would be an ultra-modern world with the slickest of modernistic gadgets and designs. Stanley Kubrick gave us a glimpse of this future in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. We saw it on TV shows like The Prisoner. This futuristic vision was largely shaped by the work of groundbreaking designers such as Eero Aarnio and Arne Jacobsen, and came together in projects like the first designer hotel, the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. There, you can stay at room 606, which mostly remains in its original aspect as it was conceived in the 60s. The suite is a time-capsule to the moment that we first we imagined ‘the future’.
At the end of the 50s Arne Jacobsen accepted the job to design a grand hotel for Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). Born in Copenhagen, Jacobsen was one of the grandfathers of modern Danish design. He made significant contributions to architectural functionalism and is most remembered by his simple but functional furniture designs in minimalist style.
First designer hotel in Copenhagen
Considered the first designer hotel, the SAS Royal Hotel was to become an emblem of modernism and a gateway to Scandinavia for the contemporary traveler. With 22 storeys, the SAS Royal Hotel (now Radisson Blu Royal Hotel) was the tallest structure in the city and incorporated the airline’s in-town terminal. For such grandiose building, Jacobsen’s solution was an almost translucent tower covered in a blue-green glass window wall that reflected the sky.
The building, nowadays a landmark, was just the start. Jacobsen was also in charge of all the interior design and decoration, encompassing every element and object, from the furniture to door handles, cutlery and ashtrays. He envisioned a harmonious space, bathed in light, like a city in the sky.
For the rooms, lobbies and the reception, Jacobsen created some of his most iconic objects, like the Egg chair. With its iconic waveforms, today this chair still sits elegantly in lobbies and corporate offices across the world. Every object had a function as well. The desk in the rooms had drawers that opened up to reveal a makeup mirror. Even the cutlery, with its simplified lines, was later used as the flatware for the spacecraft crew in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Jacobsen’s original vision did not last long. Years after the hotel’s opening, new management opted for a more conservative approach and started changing the decoration to respond to customers’ increasing desire for comfort. Sadly however, in the 80s, most of Jacobsen’s objects were deemed worthless and sold as cheap flea market items.
Fortunately, someone had the idea to preserve a few objects and the hotel kept one of the rooms as it was originally conceived. That’s room 606, on the sixth floor. And, that’s where you can stay today. You can follow a long list of distinguished guests as the hotel’s wall of fame includes The Beatles, Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, among many others. When the room is available, guests are also welcome to visit it.
Perhaps the 21st century did not turn out to be as it was once imagined, but certainly, the work of Arne Jacobsen has withstand the passage of time. Next time you need a hotel in Copenhagen, visit room 606 at the Royal Hotel and re-imagine the future.