When he was only a child, Mogens Lassen (1901-1987) already knew that he would one day become an architect. He purchased books about architecture with his pocket money and surveying and sketching buildings was his hobby. As he was dyslexic and funds were limited, Mogens entered the world of architecture by undertaking an apprenticeship. However, he was also involved in the academic world and turned his skills to assisting with the projects awarded to his friends and colleagues Ole Wanscher, Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl. Around this time, Mogens was asked to join the renowned studio of architect Tyge Hvass, becoming a highly respected employee. In 1927, he travelled to Paris and was hired to work for an engineering company. With little grasp of the French language, he did not enjoy the work and became frustrated that his sketches were restricted by the practical nature of the job. Drawing uninspiring facades was almost painful for him. Despite the challenges, it was Paris that shaped Mogens Lassen. He adored the open kitchens found in the city’s restaurants – they were full of life and, for Mogens, represented the most important room in the house. It was also here in Paris that he was first acquainted with Le Corbusier, who became a source of ongoing inspiration. During his time in Paris, Mogens was honoured with the offer of a place in Le Corbusier’s studio, which he gracefully refused, feeling that his French was not good enough.
Upon his return to Denmark, Mogens opened his own studio. Later on, he also worked as the architect for ‘Den Permanente’, an annual exhibition of Danish arts and crafts, becoming part of the movement that promoted Danish design that would make it internationally renowned. ‘Den Permanente’ became a huge success and an obligatory tourist attraction, although Mogens never took credit for it. Mogens was a modest man by nature and not the type who cared about becoming rich and famous.
He was always sketching, even on Christmas Eve, and passed away with a pencil in his hand. He loved to retreat to his workroom, which was more of a cave with small pathways carved out between mountains of papers and objects. It was anything but simple and stringent, but Mogens loved the cave’s qualities and the feeling of security it conferred. In fact, he applied this ‘cave’ concept to the houses that he designed, where windows would never face each other directly across the room.
This is how one of the fathers of functionalism in Denmark, Mogens Lassen, lived his life, which later brought international fame to Danish design and countless awards and medals, including the C.F. Hansen Medal, Denmark’s highest architectural honor.