The biography of Carl-Axel Acking

November 5, 2023

The biography of Carl-Axel Acking

Carl-Axel Acking worked in the architectural field from the age of fifteen until his death in 2001. Acking was prolific in both architecture, interior- and product design and is one of the foreground figures of the Swedish Modern.

Carl-Axel Acking’s career started at the age of fifteen, when he was employed by the architect Gustaf Widmark in his hometown Helsingborg. Six years later Acking moved to Stockholm, where he began studying furniture design at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design. After graduating in 1934 he got a job at the architectural office of the Swedish Cooperation Union and Wholesale Society – KF – where he was assigned to make standard interiors. Simultaneously with working at KF, Acking also studied architecture in the evenings, and it was during this time he changed his name from Gustafsson, to Acking from his nickname Acke.

Acking started to get recognition as a designer during the 1930s, and in 1936 he was recruited by Gunnar Asplund to join his architect’s studio. Together with Asplund he created furniture for the Gothenburg Court House (finished in 1936) and for the Woodland Crematorium at Skogskyrkogården in Stockholm (finished in 1940). In 1937 he started his own studio in Stockholm together with Sven Hesselgren. Of their work the family hotel in Hässelby is the most prolific. In 1937 Acking participated at the World Exhibition in Paris with the cabinet Paris 1937, made in oak and elm veneer with flower intarsia, and the leather upholstered armchair Paris.

Acking was also represented at the World Exhibition in New York two years later, where he played an important part in spreading the concept of Swedish Modern. In a competition arranged by Svenska Slöjdföreningen (today Svensk Form) and the furniture manufacturer Svenska Möbelfabrikerna i Bodafors 1943, Acking came in second place with the chair Nr 41. Thanks to its innovative design Nr 41 could be delivered in flat packages (12 chairs could fit into one package). The chair made quite a stir when it was launched at the exhibition Vi Bo i Friluftsstaden in Malmö 1944. It’s said that a young Ingvar Kamprad (the founder of IKEA) saw Acking’s chair and took inspiration from it.

In 1955 Acking was one of the supervising architects to the exhibition H55 in Helsingborg, where he was responsible for the exhibition halls on the pier. From the same year he ran his own architect’s studio both in Stockholm and in Lund.

Acking is well known for the interior design in public spaces such as Hotel Malmen in Stockholm (1951), the Swedish embassy in Tokyo (for which he also made the armchair Tokyo) (1959) and the Hotel Continental in Stockholm (1962). He also created several ship interiors, beginning with the M/S Rio De Janeiro in 1956. Acking was throughout his career a member of The Swedish Architects Association (today Architects Sweden). For Svensk Form, he was a board member from 1949-61 as well as being president of SVID (Swedish industrial designers) in the 1960s. Besides his career as an architect and designer, Acking also worked as a lecturer at several universities during the 1940, 50 and 60s such as Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. From 1964 to 1976 he was the professor of architecture and design at LTH – the faculty of engineering at Lund University, while also being the architect with responsibility for the Lund city’s cathedral.

In 2001 Carl-Axel Acking died in Lund, at the age of 91.

Read more about Carl-Axel Acking here.

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