Designer Bodil Kjaer

“For a long time, I’d wanted to design furniture that spoke to the better architecture of the 1950s, to create a sense of cohesion between furniture and building. In my view, furniture is really just elements of architecture.” 

Born in Denmark and educated at the School of Interior Architecture in Copenhagen and the Royal College of Art and the Architectural Association in London, Bodil Kjaer has had a rich career as an architect, designer, planner, and researcher. While senior architect with Arup and in her own studios in the 1960s and 1970s as well as in her professorship at the University of Maryland in the 1980s, she approached design with both a cool functionalism and a responsive humanism.

Kjaer’s investigations into changing social values around management and work environments in the 1950s led her to develop an aesthetic language that best expressed the user’s need for flexible systems within modern spaces. This emphasis informed her projects for factories, office buildings, and universities.

In the mid-1950s Kjaer designed a series of prototype furnishings that reflected the preferred materials and clean proportions of modernist buildings. Unsurprisingly, these “elements of architecture,” as she called them, caught the attention of innovative architects from Paul Rudolph to Josep Lluís Sert to Marcel Breuer. Soon her furniture and lighting were put into production, first by C.I. Designs in the United States, then by Denbo and E. Pedersen & Son in Denmark, among other manufacturers.

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