Jacobsen began training as a mason before studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where he won a silver medal for a chair that was then exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that built on the country’s craft-based design heritage.
First among Jacobsen’s important architectural commissions was the Bellavista housing project in Copenhagen (1930-1934). His best-known and most fully integrated works are the SAS Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel Copenhagen, for which Jacobsen designed every detail, from sculptural furnishings such as his elegant Swan and Egg Chairs (1957-1958) to textiles, lighting, ashtrays and cutlery.
During the 1960s, Jacobsen’s most important work was a unified architectural and interior design scheme for St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, which, like his earlier work for the Royal Hotel, involved the design of site-specific furniture. Jacobsen’s work remains appealing and fresh today, combining free-form sculptural shapes with the traditional attributes of Scandinavian design, material and structural integrity.