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Restoring Arne Jacobsen’s Modernist Copenhagen Hotel to Its Original Glory

The design studio Space Copenhagen is working to breathe life back into Jacobsen’s vision for the world’s first designer hotel.

The remodeled lobby at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)

In 1960, Danish modernist Arne Jacobsen finished his crowning achievement, the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, designing not only the building itself, but also the furniture, light fixtures, doorknobs, ashtrays, and even the silverware used at the hotel’s restaurant. (The cutlery would later be used as a prop in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.) But Jacobsen’s Gesamtkunstwerk wouldn’t stay intact for long. In the 1980s, new hotel leadership decided to update the building, selling off many of the original furnishings. Now, the Danish design studio Space Copenhagen seeks to breathe life back into Jacobsen’s original aesthetic.

Arne Jacobsen’s Royal Hotel when it first opened (photo courtesy Space Copenhagen)

Originally built for Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) with an airline terminal in its base, the Royal Hotel was the world’s first designer hotel and Copenhagen’s first skyscraper. After the original design details were dismantled, for a long time there was just one room, Room 606, that was kept as Jacobsen had originally designed it. Although the rest of what’s known today as the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel was strewn with the architect’s iconic Egg, Swan, and Drop chairs (designed specifically for the hotel), as Hyperallergic’s Hrag Vartanian noted when he visited in 2011, “Perhaps it is because this building and its objects have been copied so many times since it opened over 50 years ago, but the sense of wow this space probably evoked has since dissipated.”

Enter Space Copenhagen, which has been working on an extensive renovation of the Royal Hotel. “In order to re-establish the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel as a design destination, Space Copenhagen dug deep into the hotel’s archives to understand the spirit and intent of Jacobsen’s original scheme,” the studio wrote in a recent press release. “Through this understanding, Space Copenhagen have modernized the hotel’s interiors, whilst carefully preserving the original design.”

As part of the renovation, Space Copenhagen has put a modern twist on Jacobsen’s original design, re-upholstering his iconic chairs in hues of grey, brown, and black (forgoing the original shades of green), as well as adding some new design elements of its own while working closely with Fritz Hansen, the same furniture-maker Jacobsen used in the 1950s. The design studio has already finished renovations of the ground floor, lobby, restaurant, bar, meeting rooms, and several guest rooms. The remaining rooms are scheduled for completion this spring. While we wait for Space Copenhagen’s final touches, we offer you a brief tour of what Jacobsen’s functional modernist masterpiece has looked like over the years.

Arne Jacobsen in a room at his Royal Hotel when it first opened (photo courtesy Space Copenhagen)
A conference room in Arne Jacobsen’s Royal Hotel when it first opened (photo courtesy Space Copenhagen)
The silverware Arne Jacobsen designed specifically for the Royal Hotel, later used in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (photo courtesy Space Copenhagen)
Room 606 at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, 2016 (photo by Pietervandenabeele, via Wikimedia Commons)
Arne Jacobsen’s Swan chairs in the Royal Hotel Lobby in Copenhagen, 2008 (photo by fhwrdh, via Wikimedia Commons)
Guest room in the Royal Hotel, 2010 (photo by Sarah Ackerman, via Flickr)
The remodeled entrance at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
The remodeled lobby at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
Remodeled public area at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
Space Copenhagen’s new Café Royal at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
Space Copenhagen’s new Café Royal at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
A remodeled guest room at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
A remodeled guest room at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
A remodeled guest room at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
A remodeled meeting space at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (photo © Joachim Wichman, courtesy Space Copenhagen)
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