About the museum
History & architecture
Experience Danish Design
With a unique location in Copenhagen’s historic centre, near tourist attractions, the harbour boats, design companies and galleries, Designmuseum Danmark is a working archive and the entrance to Denmark as a design destination.
Founded in 1890: Imaginative Inspiration
Designmuseum Danmark was founded in 1890 by the Confederation of Danish Industries in Copenhagen and the Ny Carlsberg Museumslegat. It opened to the public in 1895 in a newly-built museum building on what is now H.C. Andersens Boulevard and moved in 1926 to its current location, a former hospital. The museum’s main goal from the beginning was to communicate the idea of quality within design. By exhibiting exemplary objects and collections, it seeks to raise the level of Danish industrial products and act as a source of inspiration for people working in industry. It also aims at making contemporary consumers more critical and quality-oriented.
Copenhagen's finest Rococo building and Kaare Klint
Since 1926, Designmuseum Danmark has been housed in one of Copenhagen’s finest rococo buildings, the former Royal Frederik’s Hospital. The building was constructed during the reign of King Frederik V in the years 1752-57 based on drawings by the architects Nicolai Eigtved and Lauritz de Thurah. In the 1920s, the buildings were renovated and adapted to museum use by the architects Ivar Bentsen and Kaare Klint.
Kaare Klint (1888-1954) furnishes the museum and he designs its entire inventory en the late 1920s. Known as the grand old man of Danish furniture design, he has a decisive influence on Danish design. Kaare Klint lived and worked at the museum and also served as a teacher for several of the best-known Danish architects and designers of the 20th century. As a lecturer at the School of Furniture Design and Interior Decoration at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Kaare Klint was known for his extensive analytic examination of spatiality. Today the museum’s buildings are known as the finest example of Kaare Klint’s work with function and tradition.
The Royal Frederik's Hospital: Care for all
1757: The Royal Frederik’s Hospital is Denmark’s first public hospital was constructed during the reign of King Frederik V. The hospital was located in the Copenhagen neighborhood of Frederiksstaden with the goal of offering penniless patients free care. The hospital was designed by two architects, Nicolai Eigtved and Laurids de Thurah, and was built between 1752 and 1757. It was officially opened on the King’s birthday, 31 March.
The architects designed the sickrooms as long galleries. The interiors were determined by the dimensions of a sickbed and based on what was, at the time, a modern, systematic and functional hospital set-up. It created unobstructed access to each bed, windows to provide natural light, and good care. And with the Grønnegården garden in the middle of the hospital, there was plenty of access to sunshine and fresh air. Two large ports opened the hospital towards the streets of Amaliegade and Bredgade. One of the central operating rooms is now the museum’s Assembly Hall, with optimal natural light.
Prominent patients: The hospital is mentioned in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, and among its many patients was the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who was treated in 1855.
The Royal Frederik’s Hospital closed in 1910, when the Rigshospitalet opened.
From the "Kunstindustrimuseum" to Designmuseum Danmark
Until 2011, Designmuseum Danmark was known as the “Kunstindustrimuseet”, or the Museum of Art and Design. The name was changed as part of the Museum’s strategy to reach out to a wider audience. Designmuseum Danmark is a contemporary museum with a goal of inspiring the best design solutions and putting historic collections in a fresh light. The name change was launched at the same times as the exhibit “Danish Design – I like it” created by the international design star Jasper Morrison.
“The museum needed a name that could be widely understood and that could communicate its ideas and goals. The new name is short, easy to say, and international. The change in name also allows the museum to show its commonality with design museums in places like England, Germany, and Finland,” said the museum chairman Flemming Lindeløv in 2011.
A modern and active place
Today, the museum is a modern and active place, where families with children, students, school classes and a large international audience come together to help create design and be part of the museum’s many events, educational activities, talks and family workshops.
Visitor numbers have increased significantly in recent years, from 63,123 guests a year in 2011 to 290,000 in 2017.
Design workshop: Education at every level
In 2012, a modern design lab for workshops and learning activities was built next to the museum. Today it is the platform for all our creative, educational and learning activities, with a wide variety of materials and tools. Here people of all ages engage in hands-on design processes as they find inspiration in a small study collection of chairs, glass, bowls, ceramics, sustainable and industrial products. Everything can be investigated hands-on. The design lab is kindly donated by VILLUM FONDEN.
In 2015 the museum celebrated its 125 anniversary. This was marked with the exhibition “Learning from Japan.” With its focus on the Japanese influence on Danish design and crafts since the end of the 19th Century, the exhibition celebrates not only the history of the museum and its collections it also sheds light on a very important chapter in Danish design history.
Grønnegården: an oasis in the middle of the city
In the middle of the museum lies the open museum garden, Grønnegården, a bit of breathing space in the middle of the city. The garden is used as an exhibition space, and in the summer it is open with outdoor café service and picnic tables under the open sky.
Since 1982, the garden has also been home to the Grønnegårds Theatre, which puts on shows during the summer months.