CDH Visiting Researcher 2019, Kristian Roland Larsen (University of Southern Denmark), reports on research conducted during his time with the Centre in Brighton.

Researching Danish Furniture Design

Kristian Roland Larsen (University of Southern Denmark)

In the autumn of 2019, I was very honoured to join the Centre of Design History as a PhD visiting scholar. The change of environment generally had a great academic relevance for me and enriched my research project which explores “The Image of Danish Furniture Culture, 1950-1970’. First of all, I gained a unique insight into an international research environment and increased my academic network and familiarity with relevant research environments in the UK. My contact with CDH also provided access to useful networks for young researchers in design history, as well as relevant subject and reading groups run by many engaged and talented researchers at the University of Brighton.

To give some background to my research, most literature on Danish Furniture Design has only considered the most dominant producers and the most ’worshipped’ objects. (Munch 2012) This hagiographic and canonising approach has been institutionalised by art historians and dominant actors, designers and manufacturers within their personal networks, and even by theoretically-oriented designers and architects. At the same time, many of these actors have ignored or neglected what I argue are the important commercial values which played a dominant role within the history of Danish furniture design. This outdated focus on objects from the ‘golden age of Danish design’ leaves plenty of room for alternative stories to be told. (Fallan 2012)

The first objective of my research is to articulate the position of mediation as a point of analysis within the study of the Danish furniture design. Grace Lees-Maffei has observed that channels such as magazines and promotion materials have become more accepted as design historical sources during the last 20 years. (Maffei 2010) By acknowledging mediation streams as a contemporary object for analysing design culture, I am exploring the roles of mediation channels such as advertisements, showrooms, furniture fairs and other commercial initiatives, especially approached by the Danish Furniture Magazine Mobilia (1955-1984). The project investigates how different selected actors such as photographers, artist and graphic designers close to the Danish Furniture Industry, generated new meanings to furniture objects.

My research visit to Brighton offered the opportunity to make presentations of the project. I also met with several renowned researchers in design history, including Professor Penny Sparke at Kingston University. The change of environment to the University of Brighton also gave rise to participation in relevant courses on exhibition history, as well as a CDH symposium that addressed how design historical research can be disseminated through exhibition practice. One of the main purposes of the research stay was to collect material on Danish furniture design through visits to the University’s Design Archives which included several meetings and great guidance from Dr Lesley Whitworth. Exploring relevant photographic material of Danish furniture, as well as sources that highlight the many exchanges that took place between Danish and British design organisations. This material that has not been researched so far and will make a positive contribution to the dissertation’s international perspective on the visual promotion of Danish furniture design.


– Kristian Roland Larsen