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Finn Juhl

This week's featured designer was one of the leading figures in the creation of "Danish design" and introduced Danish Modern to America

Finn Juhl (b. January 30th 1912 – d. May 17th 1989) was a Danish architect, interior and industrial designer, most known for his furniture design. He was one of the leading figures in the creation of "Danish design" in the 1940s and he was the designer who introduced Danish Modern to America.

He was accepted to the Architecture School at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where from 1930 to 1934 he studied under Kay Fisker, a leading architect of his day and noted lecturer.

After graduating, Juhl worked for ten years at Vilhelm Lauritzen's architectural firm, where he had also apprenticed as a student. In close collaboration with Viggo Boesen, Lauritzen's closest, Juhl was responsible for much of the interior design of the national Danish broadcaster Danmarks Radio's Radio Building, one of the firm's most high-profile assignments during those years. In 1943 he received the C.F. Hansen prize for young architects.

In 1945 he set up his own design practice, in Nyhavn in Copenhagen, specializing in interior and furniture design. However, his work in furniture design began earlier than that.

Juhl made his debut in 1937 when he commenced a collaboration with cabinetmaker Niels Vodder which would continue until 1959 and exhibited at the Cabinetmakers' Guild Exhibitions, the 11th of its kind.

The Guild Exhibitions were an important venue for the young designers who sought to renew Danish design, turning their backs on the traditional historicist styles, heavy and with ornaments and plush, instead creating modern furniture which fitted the new trends in architecture. The projects was highly controversial and Juhl's first work met much criticism. His Pelican chair, designed in 1939 and first produced in 1940, was described as a "tired walrus" and "aesthetics in the worst possible sense of the word"

In spite of the initial criticism, Juhl's work began to influence the style of homes abroad throughout the 40s. In Denmark, however, his popularity did not reach that of his peers, Børge Mogensen and Hans Wegner, who were less radical in their designs.

At the Milan Triennale in the 50s, he won a total of five gold medals, further adding to his international reputation. During this decade he continued to design more specifically for the mass market than had been the case in the 40s.

Juhl also designed refrigerators for General Electric, glassware, ceramics, a line of furniture for the Baker Furniture Company of Holland, Michigan, and was the interior designer for the United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber in New York City.

In the '60s and '70s he experienced a declining interest in his designs. In the '80s and '90s the interest resurged. In 2010 one of his sofas, produced by Danish furniture brand OneCollection, won a Wallpaper Design Award in the "Best reissue/sofa design" category.
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