Welcome home, Åke!


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Åke Axelson
Bygning A
A. Petersen
Photo Rigetta Klint
English translation: Dorthe H Silver

Welcome – A. Petersen opens its doors to yet another grand exhibition on the floor above the shop and workshops on Kløvermarksvej in Copenhagen. The gallery floor has been renamed Bygning A (Building A), while the shop still goes by ‘A. Petersen’. Over the summer, the entire venue, including the outdoor space, has been overhauled from top to bottom and is now spick and span. Other than that, everything is as it was, which means that all is well!

The current exhibition, ‘Welcome home, Åke’, in effect renders Åke, aka cabinetmaker and interior architect Åke Axelsson, homeless until early March.

Let me explain: with their customary taste for going all in, Anders and Kari, who own and run A. Petersen and Bygning A, have not simply set up an exhibition about Åke Axelson and his work – they have moved his entire home, which is also his laboratory and his furniture collection, from Vaxholm in Stockholm’s northern archipelago, to Copenhagen, recreating it, 1:1, in Bygning A.

Åke Axelsson, still active at 88 years of age, is a trained cabinetmaker and interior designer. He has created a large number of interiors in the public realm, mainly in Sweden, and a wide range of furniture, mostly chairs, for both private and public settings.
Together with his daughter Anna Klockby and son-in-law Dag Klockby, he is the co-owner of the Gärsnäs furniture factory in Scania, southern Sweden, and has been designing furniture for the factory since 1963.
In his hometown of Vaxholm he runs a small cabinetmaking firm together with his assistant, Daniel Ericsson. The firm makes furniture, which he will soon begin to sell directly via his web shop and which will be delivered flat-packed. Models that were designed long ago, but which are continuously improved and updated. Åke calls it industrial craftsmanship, because the production method occupies a point somewhere between the furniture factory’s mass production and the unique hand-crafted products of the cabinetmaking workshop.


Åke’s (exhibition) home includes settings from some of his major interior commissions. When I met him for coffee the day before the official opening of the exhibition, he invited me, ‘Should we take our coffee at the palace?’ King Carl Gustaf’s Jubilee Room at the Royal Palace in Stockholm is among his later projects, along with the church in Karlskrona and the Värmland County Museum.
We were able to view sections of both the other projects from the palace interior. Nice view and a lovely conversation with an insightful and soft-spoken man, who in his humble Swedish manner, but without hesitation or doubt, expressed strong opinions about both his own role as a designer and the state of the world at large. He is a functionalist, favours industrial production and is generally tired of seeing marketing people apply the word ‘craft’ or ‘artisanal’ to just about anything. Crafting is something done by hand, using hand tools, to produce prototypes, unique pieces or hobby projects. High-tech production methods are a condition for producing good design for the many.

‘When I create an interior, I base my work on the setting and the purpose. It is not about self-realization but about realizing the project and its inherent qualities. When the project concerns a historical setting, as is often the case, I respect this, while also adding an element of modernity,’ he explains and gestures with his hand towards the church in Karlskrona, where the task was to transform a static church interior from the 18th century into a modern, multi-functional ecclesiastical space. ‘I received some help from above,’ he says with a smile, as he describes why the chair looks the way it does. ‘The form was already present in the room, and that is what I based my design on. I chose to upholster the chairs with parchment, cowhides from the Tärnsjö tannery; in that way, the chairs form a flock of individuals, at once identical yet different. The chairs, which were made at the Gärnäs furniture factory, were hand-painted with linseed oil paint in a workshop in the city of Ystad.’

After coffee, Åke takes me on a tour of his collection, points to his dining chair S217 from 1963 and asks me to take a seat. It is comfortable; really comfortable, in fact. The chair has clear references to Thonet’s classic beautiful bentwood chairs (which are anything but comfortable). I mention the reference, at the risk of offending, but Åke is not offended, on the contrary. ‘It’s virtually impossible to invent something new, but you can refine and improve,’ he says. ‘Something entirely new only comes into being on the rare occasions when we discover novel materials or techniques, as when Thonet mastered steam-bending.’

I ask whether all his furniture is made in Sweden, and he looks at me as if he does not get the question. I wonder if we hit a language barrier, but I quickly realize that this is not a language issue – to him, the question is non-existent. Of course, his production is in Sweden, that is the whole point. Just as it is part of the point that as a trained cabinetmaker, he is able to make his own prototypes.

We round off our talk. Åke and his girlfriend have lost their luggage during their journey from Stockholm and need to go shopping for some clothes to wear at the opening reception. Before they leave, I am allowed to take a photo of Åke in one of the chairs that are made in the small workshop in Vaxholm. The chair is beautiful. Åke is even more beautiful.



‘Welcome home, Åke!’
Exhibition period: 4 September 2020 – 28 February 2021
Bygning A / A. Petersen
Kløvermarksvej 70, 1st floor
2300 Copenhagen S

See opening hours here:



På dansk: Velkommen hjem Åke


Velkommen, A. Petersen har igen slået dørene op for endnu en storslået udstilling på etagen over butik og værksted på Kløvermarksvej i København. Gallerietagen har taget navneforandring til Bygning A, mens butikken fortsat lyder navnet A. Petersen. Hele herligheden, inklusive udendørsarealerne, er i løbet af sommeren gået efter i sømmene og står knivskarpt. I øvrigt er alt som det plejer, hvilket betyder, at alt er godt!

Den aktuelle udstilling, ”velkommen hjem Åke” betyder, at Åke aka møbelsnedker og indretningsarkitekt Åke Axelsson er hjemløs frem til begyndelsen af marts.
Lad mig forklare: Med vanlig sans for at gå planken ud, har Anders og Kari, som står bag A. Petersen og Bygning A, ikke bare etableret en udstilling om Åke Axelsson og hans virke, de har flyttet hele hans hjem, som samtidig er hans laboratorium og hans samling af møbler, fra Vaxholm i Stockholms nordlige Skærgård og 1:1 reetableret det i København i Bygning A.

Stadigt erhvervsaktive 88årige Åke Axelsson er uddannet møbelsnedker og indretningsarkitekt. Han står bag en lang række offentlige indretninger, primært i Sverige, og bag et stort antal møbler, navnlig stole, til såvel privat som offentligt miljø.
Han er sammen med datteren Anna Klockby og svigersønnen Dag Klockby medejer af Gärsnäs møbelfabrik i Skåne, hvortil han kontinuerligt har designet møbler siden 1963.
I Vaxholm, hvor han bor, driver han sammen med sin ansatte Daniel Ericsson en mindre snedkervirksomhed, som producerer møbler, som han ganske snart begynder at sælge direkte til forbrugerne fra sin webshop. Møbler som skal leveres i ”flad pack”. Møbler som er tegnet for længe siden, men som løbende forbedres og opdateres. Han kalder det for industrielt håndværk, fordi de i fremstillingsmetode befinder sig mellem møbelfabrikkens masseproduktion og snedkerværkstedets unika.

I Åkes hjem (på udstillingen) er der miljøer fra flere af hans store indretningsopgaver, da jeg mødte ham til kaffe dagen inden den officielle åbning af udstillingen, sagde han inviterende, ”skal vi tage kaffen på slottet?”. Carl XVI Gustafs jubilæumsrum på slottet i Stockholm er sammen med kirken i Karlskrona og museet i Värmland blandt hans senere projekter.
Udsnit af begge projekter havde vi udsigt til fra slotsinteriøret. God udsigt, dejlig samtale med en mand med stor indsigt, som på lavmælt, ydmygt svensk vis, men uden at ryste på hånden eller tøve, gav udtryk for kraftfulde holdninger til både sin egen rolle som formgiver og til tingenes tilstand i almindelighed. Han er funktionalist, glad for industriel produktion og i øvrigt træt af, at ordet håndværk klistres på hvad som helst i markedsføringsafdelingen. Håndværk er noget, man udfører med hånd og værktøj, når man laver prototyper, laver unika eller udfører hobbyprojekter. Højteknologiske produktionsmetoder er en forudsætning for at fremstille godt design til de mange.

”Når jeg skaber en indretning, så tager jeg udgangspunkt i rammerne. Det handler ikke om, at jeg skal realisere mig selv, men om at jeg skal realisere projektet og dets iboende kvaliteter. Når der er tale om historiske rammer, hvad der ofte er, så respekterer jeg dette og tilfører samtidig en modernitet”, fortæller han og peger med hele hånden på kirken i Karlskrona, hvor opgaven var at forvandle et statisk kirkerum fra 1700tallet til et moderne, multifunktionelt kirkerum.
”Jeg fik hjælp fra oven”, siger han med et glimt i øjet, da han beskriver, hvorfor stolene ser ud, netop som de gør. ”Formen fandtes allerede i rummet, og det var den, jeg tog udgangspunkt i. Jeg har valgt at beklæde med pergament, kohuder som er garvet på Tärnsjö garveri, på den måde er stolene som en flok individer, på en og samme gang ens og forskellige. Stolene, som er produceret på møbelfabrikken Gärsnäs, er håndmalet med Linoliemaling på et værksted i Ystad”.

Åke viser efter kaffen rundt i sin samling, peger på sin spisebordsstol S217 fra 1963 og beder mig tage plads. Jeg sidder godt, rigtig godt. Stolen har tydelige referencer til Thonets klassiske, smukke Wienerstole (i hvilke man sidder elendigt). Jeg italesætter referencen med risiko for at fornærme, men Åke bliver ikke fornærmet, snarere tværtimod. ”Det er næsten umuligt at opfinde noget nyt, men man kan forfine, forbedre”, siger han. ”Noget helt nyt, det opstår kun i de sjældne tilfælde, hvor vi opdager helt nye materialer eller teknikker, som da Thonet fandt ud af at dampbøje”.
Jeg spørger, om alle hans møbler produceres i Sverige, og han ser på mig, som om han ikke forstår mit spørgsmål, jeg tænker, at der må være opstået en pludselig sproglig kløft, men forstår hurtigt, at det ikke drejer sig om sproget, men om at spørgsmålet for ham er ikke-eksisterende. Selvfølgelig producerer han i Sverige, det er hele pointen. Lige som det er en del af pointen, at han som uddannet møbelsnedker selv kan fremstille prototyper.

Vi afrunder, Åke og hans kæreste har mistet deres bagage på vejen fra Stockholm, og de skal ud for at købe nyt tøj, så de kan være klædt på til åbningen.
Inden de tager afsted, får jeg lov til at fotografere Åke i en af de stole, som fremstilles på det lille værksted i Vaxholm. Stolen er smuk, Åke er endnu smukkere.