Jens Risom (1916)

Danish architect, furniture and interior designer; born Copenhagen, active in the United States.


Risom studied interior and furniture design at the Arts and Crafts academy of Copenhagen. Upon graduating in 1937, he worked briefly for architect Ernst Kuhn. In 1939, he immigrated to the United States where he established himself as a proponent of the Scandinavian Modern style, which, at the time, had not yet achieved popularity.

That changed in 1940, when his design for a model house in New York´s Rockefeller Center attracted widespread attention, generating both publicity and commissions ¬ó among them the distinction of being the first person invited to design furniture for Hans Knoll.

One of Risom´s most recognizable designs, the Birchwood chair (1941), made of molded birch and army surplus webbing, was the result of this collaboration. Still in production today, it illustrates his preference for natural materials, in sharp contrast to the metal and molded plastics often used by many of his notable contemporaries.

After the Second World War, Risom founded his own furniture business, Jens Risom Design. He was a pioneer of the modular furniture system, at the time a cutting edge concept. His innovative product lines consisted of standard, interchangeable components, and, because they made efficient use of available surface areas, were ideal for the newly emerging open plan office. Risom served as chief designer until 1973, when he sold his company to Dictaphone. He then moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, where he founded a consultancy studio called Design Control. It is still active.

-> More designers