Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Celebration of ... Henning Koppel (1918-1981)



Henning Koppel is one of the main designers responsible for what the world has come to think of as “Danish design".

According to the Georg Jensen site, Koppel was an early pioneer of functionalism. In architecture this was the principle that architects should design a building based on the purpose of that building, this stemmed from the work of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Denmark developed its own form of Functionalism which also extended to other disciplines including furniture design in the work of Arne Jacobsen. However, the Danish functionalists were considered in some cases to have focused primarily on functionality at the expense of aesthetics, and according to <a href="http://www.deconet.com/decopedia/designer/618/Henning_Koppel" target="_blank>Decopedia</a> he considered himself to be an anti-functionalist, and his ideal was to make everyday life products beautiful as well as practical. "Functionalism has nothing to do with the art of forming silver" was one of his favorite expressions.

Koppel trained as a sculptor at the Royal Danish Academy and later studied in Paris and began collaborating with Georg Jensen in 1946.

Henning Koppel was born to a wealthy Jewish family and showed an early talent for art, leading him to train in both drawing and water colour early on. Koppel trained as a sculptor at the Royal Danish Academy and later studied in Paris.

Like many Danish Jews, Koppel fled to Sweden during the Second World War. At 27, he returned and began working at Georg Jensen, which marked his start in jewellery, hollow-ware and flatware design. His work was inspired by the sculpture of Calder, Arp and Brancusi, it was organic, archetypal and somtimes sensual. His first works – a series of necklaces and linked bracelets resembling whale vertebrae and microscopic organisms - were small masterpieces in imaginative modelling.



When Henning Koppel first designed his world famous watch in 1978, he broke with tradition and changed the way of marking time on watches by substituting dots for numbers. This simple yet striking difference in watch design has influenced Georg Jensen watch collections ever since and embodies the fundamental minimalist design values in Georg Jensen. A daring simplicity combining functionality and quality.

When Henning Koppel died in 1981, aged 63, he had created an astonishing range of work: from stainless steel cutlery such as “New York” which found its way into the homes of millions, to magnificent one-off signature pieces such as the silver and crystal chandelier he designed to celebrate the 75-year anniversary of Georg Jensen in 1979. His most famous piece, the silver pitcher for Georg Jensen of 1952 has been revived and remains a must have classic.



During his life, he won many awards including the Milan Triennial, the International Design Award of the American Institute of Interior Designers in 1963, and the Lunning Prize. Accolades are important, but what means even more to us is that people still choose to wear a watch by Henning Koppel or to serve coffee from one of his pots. The integrity and appeal of his designs remain vital and undiminished.

His daughter Nina Koppel, also went on to design for Georg Jensen, and carried on the family traditional of producing timeless classics, for it is she who is responsible for the Fusion Ring.

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