Modern Scandinavian Design 09.10.17

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  • Enamel pot by Timo Sarpaneva for Iittala, Finland: Sarpaneva is most known for his glass designs for Iittala, but like his colleague Wirkkala he worked across a wide field. The enamel pot with its wooden handle is a modern interpretation of a Finnish classic

  • Dish by Sigurd Persson for Silver and Stål, Sweden: This humble but perfectly formed stainless-steel item derives from Persson’s work as a silversmith, often making items for churches in fine metals and gemstones

  • Salad servers by Erik Magnusen for Stelton, Denmark: Plastic was the material of choice through the 1960s and 70s, and Magnusen was one of the best designers in the material. Here function is key while the form is reduced to the bare necessities

  • Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto for Artek, Finland: Aalto was first and foremost an architect, and did little product design after the 1930s. But his furniture is still legendary, and nothing is more famous than his three-legged stool from 1933

  • Artichoke by Paul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, Denmark: Henningsen was the undisputed king of Scandinavian lighting design, with a deep technical knowledge of light emission. The Artichoke is his most advanced creation, and perhaps also the most beautiful

  • Frost vase by Tapio Wirkkala for Iittala, Finland: Wirkkala was a giant of product design, with no material or product type too complicated for him to cover. His melting ice glass for Iittala was one of his trademark designs

  • Cutlery by Arne Jacobsen for Georg Jensen, Denmark: Originally made for Jacobsen’s most famous building, the SAS Royal Hotel, the cutlery is equally loved and mocked. It has come to define space age design, featuring in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

  • Fabric by Josef Frank for Svenskt Tenn, Sweden: Starting as a modernist architect and fleeing Austria in the 1930s, Frank turned against the statement that ornament is a crime, and went on to produce highly decorative furniture and fabrics in Sweden

  • Unikko flower by Maija Isola for Marimekko, Finland: The red poppy flower has come to symbolise Marimekko, but it originated from a conversation where Marimekko’s founder Armi Ratia banned flower designs as too conventional. Isola answered with this radical flower

  • Bangle watch by Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe for Georg Jensen, Denmark: With her work for Georg Jensen, Bülow-Hübe injected a new feminism into modern design. She counted Pablo Picasso amongst her many famous admirers

As Magnus Englund, the co-founder of Skandium, launches a new book on the subject, he ponders the future of design from his region

I was delighted when design writers Charlotte and Peter Fiell asked me to write the main text for their major new book on Scandinavian design — they have some 40 books under their belt already compared to my meagre couple on Scandinavian interiors, but after 17 years building up and running Skandium, the region's design is something I have lived close to for a long time, and in particular its history and influence outside Scandinavia.

The starting points were to uncover new photographic material, attempting to move away from a narrow focus on the mid-20th century, which tends to dominate histories of Scandinavian design, anchoring the story earlier in time and bringing it right up to the present day, and also to introduce forgotten designers and manufacturers. We actively decided to include architecture and graphic design, as these fields are so closely linked to product design, yet are often ignored in this context. It’s also interesting to look at the relationship between the political creation of the successful Scandinavian welfare states in relationship to their pioneering design and architecture, and the use of design for the building of national identities after the Second World War. Our aspiration was to create the major reference source for the next decade or so, and we were lucky to procure the services of the leading Swedish graphic designer Henrik Nygren, too.

But the question is where Scandinavian design goes from here. Recent years have seen a strong growth in Danish brands such as Hay and Muuto, while Ikea has moved from being a follower or imitator to commissioning renowned designers to create credible products. With both manufacturing and design often taking place outside Scandinavia, the model of the future seems to follow that of Scandinavian fashion giants like H&M — even so, the heritage is still revered and many lost classics are being brought back into production. It will be interesting for all to see what happens next.

Modern Scandinavian Design by Magnus Englund and Charlotte & Peter Fiell is published by Laurence King Publishing 



Magnus Englund


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