Redesigning a design museum carries with it the weight of legacy and contemporary expectations. For Designmuseum Danmark this was especially apposite as the museum, its furniture and entire inventory were designed by the grandfather of Danish modern Kaare Klint in the 1920s. The architect and professor remade an 18th-century rococo hospital drawn by the king’s royal architects as a showcase for quality design and the new home of a museum established in 1890. The strength of Klint’s architectural scheme was the way he created exhibition spaces while retaining the flow of rooms in the single-storey complex, all of which wrap around a central courtyard. Floors of Norwegian Gjellebæk stone tiles and walls rendered with a grey mortar mix meant the space offered a timeless and restrained backdrop. The materiality, clean pure lines with classic references and craftsmanship ensured Klint’s design has endured for almost a century. 

Designmuseum Danmark: building on the legacy of a master

Designmuseum Danmark shop
Museum shop by OEO Studio

When it came to the most comprehensive renewal since the museum opened in 1926, the starting point was Klint’s principles. ‘How do you build on the legacy of a master?’ says OEO Studio’s head of design and founding partner Thomas Lykke of the Copenhagen studio’s remake of the shop and the café. ‘We embraced this idea as a design driver for this project,’ honouring Klint’s work while also creating new, exciting and highly functional public spaces that retain a real sense of place, he says. 

The shop, relocated to the entrance, is a deft combination of classic elements such as glass cabinets designed by Klint and new custom-designed, blue-grey-stained built-in cabinets with details that echo the vintage pieces. In the café, OEO reintroduced the Le Klint ‘101’ pendant lamp in paper designed by Klint and created a new ceiling fitting in brass and folded paper as an homage to the master inspired by the architecture of the building.

Design Museum Denmark staircase
Photography: Luka Hesselberg

Museum director Anne-Louise Sommer says the two years spent undertaking the renovation were used to rethink the entire museum-going experience. As with the architectural revamp, it prizes the heritage but also articulates contemporary values and ideas.

The museum opens on Sunday 19 June 2022 with eight exhibitions covering the spectrum and designed by notable local practices. ‘The Future is Present’, focusing on how design solutions respond to today’s challenges, such as climate and identity, was created by Danish architecture studio Spacon & X. Inspired by the idea of a Wunderkammer, ‘Wonder’ displays the museum’s oldest, rarest and most eclectic collections. A highlight is a room dedicated to tsubas, exquisitely decorated disc-like guards between the blade and the handle on a samurai sword, of which the museum has one of the world’s finest collections.

Amassed by Dr Hugo Halberstadt, the collection was originally housed in a cabinet made by Arts and Crafts designer Johan Rohde in lemon wood and ebony. In the 1950s it was transferred to a larger drawer cabinet by Klint. This cabinet is installed in the room along with a new piece created by Copenhagen-based Mentze Ottenstein to house a second, never exhibited collection. Drawing on the materials of the Rohde cabinet and the detailing of Klint’s, Mathias Mentze and Alexander Ottenstein used ebony paired with walnut, making a table vitrine so the full collection can be seen from all angles. 

Design Museum Denmark wooden vitrine
‘Wonder’

‘We are interested in the way objects migrate and become part of collections, until they end up somewhere else,’ says Mentze. ‘The ideas they hold too, as these objects have travelled from Japan to Europe, bought in places like Parisian antique dealers’, and brought back to Copenhagen where this particular collection has inspired generations of designers and artists.’

It’s an apt analogy for the entire museum. A place, says Sommers, where design, more than ever, can create connections between historic achievements and contemporary global and national challenges. ‘Design is a prism through which we can understand human need, human dreams, and human behaviour in various eras.’ §

Design Museum Denmark exhibition
‘The Future Present’
Verner Panton designs at Designmuseum Danmark
‘The Magic of Form’
Design Museum Denmark exhibition
‘The Magic of Form’
Design Museum Denmark exhibition Table-Be-Set!
‘TABLE-BE-SET!‘

Design Museum Denmark facade

 

 

 

 

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