Nature’s scarce resources should be carefully managed, says the Danish furniture designer Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, who always considers both ethical and aesthetic aspects in his design work.
‘We can’t avoid using natural resources, but we need to be diligent in the way we do it. This means, for example, that we should strive to create durable designs made of sustainable materials – things that will stand up to both visual and functional wear, and which can be processed and recycled responsibly when they eventually have to be scrapped,’ argues Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, who is known for his carefully thought-out and well-crafted furniture and lamps.
To Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, these are not empty words and statements of intent. He engages in partnerships where ethics and concepts like ‘rawzone living’ fall naturally. Over the past fifteen years, the internationally oriented furniture designer has created and developed furniture for customers in Asia, including the Japanese company Actus, which has production in Vietnam and China. A key priority in these partnerships is the use of local labour and locally sourced materials – in this case, that means mahogany trees planted by the French a century ago on the border to Cambodia.
‘The point is that the Vietnamese aren’t limited to simply supplying the wood. At the same time, we are able to minimize transportation costs and CO2 emissions,’ says Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, adding that he finds his ideas are realized with excellent craftsmanship here and at very competitive prices.
‘Actus, which could be compared to a Japanese version of Illums Bolighus, only with a slightly broader age profile and therefore a more facetted selection, saw an opportunity to link Danish design with efficient Japanese leadership, skilled Vietnamese labour and high-quality sustainable materials,’ Hans Sandgren Jakobsen explains. He is seeing great demand for his furniture, which is mainly produced for the near market, targeted at discerning Japanese consumers.
Hans Sandgren Jakobsen also works with manufacturers in China and undoubtedly spends more time in airline seats, travelling between Denmark and Asia, than most Danish furniture designers. The meeting with other cultures has always been a source of inspiration for the prolific designer, who during a working stay in Japan and a study trip to the United States in his youth discovered many commonalities in craft and design traditions. Japanese aesthetic, the minimalist and functional virtues of the American Shakers combined with Danish design history and its sense of quality formed the basis for Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, who masters a wide variety of materials. However, wood has always occupied a special role for the 53-year-old furniture designer, who graduated as a cabinetmaker before continuing his studies at The Danish Design School in the late 1980s.
This craftsman’s background is perhaps one reason why Hans Sandgren Jakobsen is such a hands-on designer. Usually, the manufacturers initiate the contact, and the design process always begins with a visit to the company – both with the purpose of getting a first-hand feel for the spirit of the company and in order to study the production facilities and determine the technological capacity. Only then does the creative process begin.
‘Innovation, aesthetic and function are of equal importance to me, and I’m convinced that “Less is more”. Furniture should only include what’s strictly necessary. I don’t create art but functional design that fulfils a practical purpose in people’s everyday life, and I would never design a beautiful chair that wasn’t comfortable. That’s an aspect of sustainability too,’ says Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, who always focuses on the details – including the ones that are not generally visible.