Poul Henningsen (1894 / 1967)
Early Life – A Rebel by Design
Provocative, Visionary, Challenging: a Founder of Futurism Illuminated Living
From this point in time, Poul Henningsen’s output as a designer, architect and sometimes writer and cultural commentator was prolific. He consistently challenged the status quo of Danish life on many levels, sometimes through the very practical re-designing of homes, furniture and everyday objects and sometimes as the source of often provocative writing and thinking of a more political nature.
Poul Henningsen believed that well-designed, functional and aesthetically pleasing environments were the right of every individual: this was the enduring philosophy behind all his work. Whether designing a two bedroom city apartment or writing for publications, making a good quality of life accessible for all was a recurrent theme. Inherent in Poul Henningsen was a desire not just to improve the day to day quality of life of the socially elite and the bourgeoisie, but also to make available ‘good design’ to working people
Many of Poul Henningsen’s designs are as relevant today as they were in the first half of the 21st Century. Having become one of Denmark’s authorities on lighting theory, Poul Henningsen designed the PH lamp in 1925, a lighting icon inspired by the way natural light falls through the foliage of a tree, providing illumination that is devoid of obtrusive glare. A winner of a gold medal at the World Fair in Paris in the 1920s, today the PH lamp is still in manufacture and in extremely high demand.
Design for the Next Generation: Poul Henningsen’s Furniture
Inspired by German Bauhaus design theories, PHbecame a pioneer of functionalism in Denmark. Poul Henningsen believed in prioritizing function over form or ”utility before beauty”, observing in 1927 that ”We do not desire a new form unless it is dictated by the objective”.
Most often he designed simple and light furniture avoiding the use of heavier materials and expressions in the design, with practicality as the main idea behind each piece. Poul Henningsen frequently observed that the solution to many common design problems in furniture were to be found in nature. Examples of this idea can be seen not only in the PH lamp, but also in the design of the Snake Chair and his collection of table designs
Office Desk, 1935
Poul Henningsen at home, sitting on the Snake Chair in front of his PH Grand Piano
Poul Henningsen and his wife in his studio
Lounge Chair, 1932
Pope Chair, 1932
Snake Chair, 1932
Poul Henningsen standing next to his PH Grand Piano