Spotlight on Jørgen Gammelgaard, the ‘missing link’ in Danish design’s history

Recently reissued by Fredericia, this Danish designer’s pieces bridge the gap between mid-century and modern

table by jorgen gammelgaard for fredericia
Fredericia

While the mid-century Danish Modern movement is justly famous, the evolution of Denmark’s style scene in the 1970s and 1980s gets far less attention. It’s for this reason that manufacturer Fredericia has described Jørgen Gammelgaard (1938-1991) as a ‘missing link’ in the nation’s design history.

jorgen gamelgaard portrait
Fredericia

Now, the company is relaunching a trio of Gammelgaard pieces that should help to redress the balance. Simple, functional and timeless, they’re proof that this little-known name deserves to be in the spotlight.

Like many before him, Gammelgaard was a product of the country’s long-established apprenticeship tradition. He trained as a cabinetmaker at CB Hansen in Copenhagen, a heritage firm with roots in the 19th century, before honing his craft under famous designers including Grete Jalk, and, as a student at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Poul Kjærholm and Ole Wanscher. For a time, he also worked in Arne Jacobsen’s studio.

The minimalist restraint of these designers influenced Gammelgaard’s work, as did his time as a consultant for the UN in Samoa, Sri Lanka and Sudan. During this period, he refined his knack for creating inventive, practical designs that responded to human need.

sofa by jorgen gammelgaard for fredericia
Three-seater sofa, from approx £3,660, Fredericia
Fredericia

When he first visited Samoa in the late 1960s, he encountered harsh strip lighting, so he turned it vertical and softened it with plastic shades. This idea gave birth to the ‘Tip Top’ pendant (1972), a multi-shade fitting with anti-glare reflectors. Now single-shade, it is made by Danish brand Pandul in sleek metal finishes.

Industrial design was then coming to the fore in Denmark, and Gammelgaard’s versatile ideas embodied its mass appeal. The ‘Vip’ light series is characterised by a pivoting cone shade, which works as a downward pool of light or, if rotated, an atmospheric corona (the name means ‘twist’ or ‘tilt’ in Danish).

vip by jorgen gammelgaard for pandul
‘Vip’ light for Pandul, £617, TwentyTwentyOne
Twentytwentyone

Then there are the designs in Fredericia’s collection. The ‘JG Folding Stool’ (1970) is a refined take on a humble essential, with a leather or canvas seat and stainless-steel cross base, while the ‘JG Sofa’ (1979) has armrests that allow for many placement options, even in tight spaces. Finally, the ‘JG Table’ (1984) features a slender, triangular base shaped to enable multiple seating possibilities without cramping sitters’ legs. All three pieces feel startlingly contemporary.

Though he died fairly young, Gammelgaard inspired Danish designers of the future as a professor in the furniture department of the Royal Danish Academy from 1987. Happily, many of his former students are now part of Fredericia’s design family. fredericia.com


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