Room 606 at SAS Royal Hotel is one of the most recognizable hotel rooms in the world.
Room 606 at SAS Royal Hotel is one of the most recognizable hotel rooms in the world.


How to renovate an iconic hotel

Copenhagen’s SAS Royal Hotel is a modern icon, designed by Arne Jacobsen for SAS and completed in 1960. The hotel, now known as the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, is getting a thorough renovation, bringing modernized facilities and some of Jacobsen’s more unknown designs into play.

When it opened, the SAS Royal Hotel was a forerunner. It was Denmark’s first skyscraper, the highest building in Scandinavia, and a temple of modernist design, created by Arne Jacobsen in every detail. Some of Danish design’s most beloved classics, the Egg chair and the Swan chair, were designed specifically for the hotel lobby and are still vital parts of the legendary interior.

The SAS Royal Hotel was Denmark's first skyskraper when it first opened.

So how do you renovate a hotel that is a part of Denmark’s cultural heritage? We asked Tom Flanagan, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s area vice president, Nordics. The famous property was Rezidor’s first hotel, and design has become a core element of other Radisson Blu hotels around the world.

“Every Dane relates to Arne Jacobsen’s design,” Flanagan says. “We wanted to use this opportunity to bring back some of Jacobsen’s more unknown designs and mix some new Danish design with the icons to create a new expression. The Egg chair and the Swan chair are classics, but they are in danger of becoming overused. They will continue to play an important role, but by introducing less familiar works like the Swan sofa or the Oksen chair, together with new Danish design objects, we are aiming to recreate the cutting-edge, modern design experience Jacobsen wanted this hotel to be.”

Tom Flanagan, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s area vice president, Nordics.

The renovation includes the lobby, the conference area, and the hotel rooms, and it will be done in sections over the next three years. Among the new elements are a modern spa, top-range restaurants, and green solutions such as intelligent glass on the façades to help regulate temperature and environmentally friendly air-changing systems.

“Jacobsen was a true genius, and the structures and design of the building are still highly modern to this day,” Flanagan says. “We have no intention of changing that, but we aim to revive the iconic atmosphere of Jacobsen’s elegant simplicity. It has been important for us to only work with Danish designers on this project, as they have a profound understanding of his genius, without using it to create a monument.” Rather than build a design museum, the goal is to create a “house of Danish design by Arne Jacobsen and friends,” complete with Danish operating equipment, Danish music, Royal Copenhagen porcelain, and pieces made especially for the property – “an all-round experience of modern Danish design,” as Flanagan puts it.

The hotel in the 80's.

What will remain untouched is the famous Room 606, dedicated to Arne Jacobsen’s style, which still stands exactly the way he designed it and is one of the most recognizable and photographed hotel rooms in the world. Another keeper is the original SAS sign on top of the building.

Text: Lise Hannibal

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