A. Michelson & Co
Even by Kubrick’s standards, the design of his 1968 sci-fi epic, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” was excruciating. Creating movie sets that look as though they belong to the future is an art director’s nightmare. But when it came to the knives and forks that Discovery One’s astronauts used to eat their space food, Kubrick went further back in time and chose cutlery designed in 1957, not by a pop design hipster but by a portly, pipe-smoking grandee of Danish architecture, Arne Jacobsen.
Jacobsen designed it at the height of his career, in his mid-50s, for one of his most prestigious assignments, the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Having established his reputation as Denmark’s leading Modernist by designing first houses and then public buildings, Jacobsen sealed it in 1956 by bagging the most coveted position in Danish design, as professor of architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. The SAS commission offered an opportunity for him to create a new national landmark, a grand hotel for the jet age. This would require him to design not just the building but all of its contents: chairs, furnishings, curtains, lighting, even the cutlery.
Ignoring convention, Jacobsen started from scratch by imagining what eating utensils would be like if they were natural extensions of the human body, and came up with abstractions of the traditional shape for knives, forks and spoons. The light, slender slivers of metal are designed to fit neatly into the hand at one end and the mouth at the other, with wide, flat surfaces for the fingertips to hold on to. He even devised special versions of the spoons for people who were left-handed. Jacobsen developed the original set for the hotel in silver-plated stainless steel with the craftsmen at
A. Michelsen Solvsmedie, the Danish crown jeweler. A second set was designed in stainless steel for industrial production by Georg Jensen, where it is still made today. —The New York Times
(Photo: The British Museum)