Nanna Ditzel Design Interview: An Image of Life

“I want to have ideas about design that create an image of life as I see it,” said ‘The First Lady of Danish Design’, Nanna Ditzel (b. 1923-d. 2005). Watch her daughter, Dennie Ditzel, talk about the experimental and innovative designer, who became a leading figure in the renewal of Danish design.

“They wanted to leave the conventional world that they believed they lived in. They wanted to get away from the typical living room with a sofa, two armchairs and a coffee table.” Dennie Ditzel shares how her parents got the idea of taking advantage of a room’s three dimensions, by standing on the dining table one evening to see what the view was from up there. This, she feels, reflects how their design was about allowing people to live and to think in a different way – to have unconventional seating arrangements and hence unconventional ways of being together: “She wanted all of us to enjoy a setting where it was possible to be free and creative.” In a time where the norm was furniture with angles, Ditzel’s furniture was very organic, imitating nature in shape and function.

Although Ditzel is now among the most influential in Danish design, being a female designer in the 1950s and 1960s wasn’t easy “because you weren’t considered a man’s equal.” To Ditzel, however, nothing was impossible, and Dennie Ditzel talks of how her mother always managed to persuade foremen to try out things that they thought were impossible: “In most cases, it could be done. So she was very ambitious and innovative and experimental.”

Nanna Ditzel (b. 1923-d. 2005) was a Danish designer. As part of the vanguard of the reinvention of functionalist design traditions, Ditzel created furniture designs that were sculptural, vibrant and fashion-forward, and she has left a firm imprint on private homes and public spaces alike. Ditzel shared a design studio with Jørgen Ditzel (b.1921-d.1961), and the young couple designed in a wide range of disciplines – in furniture, textiles, wallpaper, jewellery and utility objects. In this period they won several competitions including the Lunning Prize in 1956. After Jørgen’s death in 1961, she continued their joint project alone. Ditzel was awarded numerous prizes including the Gold Medal in the International Furniture Design Competition, Japan (1990) as well as Denmark’s highest design honour in 1995, the ID-prize. In 1996, she was elected Honourable Royal Designer at Royal Society of Arts in London (1996) and was awarded the lifelong Artists’ Grant by the Danish Ministry of Culture in 1998. For more see:

Dennie Ditzel was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg in Copenhagen, Denmark in November 2018 in connection with the exhibition ‘Danish Modern – Nanna Ditzel’ at Trapholt.

Camera: Jacob Solbakken

All photos included in this video: Courtesy of Nanna Ditzel Design

Cover photo: Stairscape, ca. 1965 by Nanna Ditzel Design

Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden



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