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50 years on, Jacob Gubi: Olsen the younger
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Estimated reading time
4 Minutes

50 years on, Jacob Gubi: Olsen the younger

In 1967, the world is in ferment. Gubi Olsen is thirty and lives in Copenhagen with his wife Lisbeth. Five years earlier, the Danish capital became the first city in the world to pedestrianize its centre: change and experimentation are in the air. Likewise in the Olsen household.

Exactly 50 years ago, Gubi and Lisbeth Olsen begin marketing textiles and producing their own-design furniture. Their idea works and little by little Gubi - the design brand we still know today - begins to take on its particular character. And then Jacob arrives.

Gubi and Lisbeth OlsenGubi and Lisbeth Olsen

Jacob Gubi: Olsen the Younger

Jacob Gubi Olsen is the couple’s son, destined to take the helm and leave his own mark on the business. He begins as family firms always do - working beside his father. But, like young Holden Caulfield, he never loses his maverick spirit and determination to do things his own way, and doesn’t feel the need to grow old in order to make important decisions and acquire wisdom.

My parents have a Danish heritage. My grandfather was a painter, and at home we were surrounded by all kinds of African masks and figures, Japanese watercolours and Italian and Moroccan designs. So I started to think that it would be interesting to bring different aesthetics from abroad into the equation
Jacob Gubi
Jacob Gubi OlsenJacob Gubi Olsen

Jacob is not idle, and looks around: he makes his first mark importing Prada and Helmut Lang into Denmark, before anyone else does so. Later he focuses entirely on the family business, and in 2001 begins to seek collaborations and inspiration for the future of Gubi. His early collections.

Large Semi pendant
Large Semi pendant

A story that reads backwards

The story begins in 1967 but goes backwards in time: to the fifties with Greta Grossman, Francisco Juan Barba Corsini, Jacques Adnet and Mathieu Matégot, and the thirties of the English Bauhaus with Robert Dudley Best, not forgetting Gubi senior’s passion for Napoleon Bonaparte through the filter of the new viewpoints created by French art cinema.

Bestilite by GubiBestilite by Gubi

But fortunately this is not what happened to Gubi. The Danish firm heads into the future, bringing to market the Grasshopper lamp, the thirteen-piece Bestlite collection and numerous other timeless icons. Lost and found, as they say: playing at blurring the borderlines between past and present, present and future. Travelling, identifying places to look for and find long-forgotten objects and inspirations and contemporary details that can reveal a small part of the future. And then comes the first iconic object conceived entirely at home.

Grasshopper by GubiGrasshopper by Gubi
Gräshoppa floor lamp
Gräshoppa pendant

Intuitions that give rise to icons

When I was first presented with the Gubi Chair idea, I only saw a hand-made miniature of just the shell. But that was enough for me to see its potential as an instant classic.
Jacob Gubi

Jacob went to Boris Berlin and Poul Christiansen, founders of Komplot Design. Poul had extensive experience at Ib & Jørgen Rasmussen; Boris was a Russian who was more like a scientist, says Jacob; he was trained as a photographer, but became a designer and met Poul because of his passion for creating.

Gubi ChairGubi Chair

Architecture, science and the influence of modernism: these were behind the singular shape of the Gubi Chair, made possible by the new opportunities brought by 3D-Veneer wood technology. And this is how it ended up in the permanent collection of MoMA and placed Gubi on the international stage of home design. And in houses all over the world, thanks to subsequent collaborations with new design names such as GamFratesi, Henning Larsen and Paul Leroy.

Gräshoppa Task table lamp
Bestlite Brass floor lamp
Bestlite table lamp
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