The Danish textile company Kvadrat has been based in Ebeltoft, a popular summer holiday resort in Jutland, ever since the founding of the firm in 1968, and it has been in its current location since the early 1980s. I visited on a calm, brilliant day in August. In the long meadow grass of its grounds, circled by gentle hills, neat copses and low hedgerows, with a view of Aarhus Bay in the distance, it’s hard to imagine that this landscape was formed 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age when the glaciers retreated to reveal the undulating landscape beneath.
The geological history of the area is the inspiration for a work commissioned by Kvadrat from Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Swiss landscape architect Günther Vogt, whose projects include the landscaping at Herzog & de Meuron’s Tate Modern and the Laban Centre in London. Your Glacial Expectations (2012) covers 60,000 sq m of land around the Kvadrat building with calculatedly wild meadow, punctuated by copses surrounded by wooden fences. Into this setting, Oliasson has placed five elliptical mirrors of different sizes, each set into the ground at a slightly different angle, to create the effect of glacial pools; the mirrors reflect both the changing weather and some of the surrounding planting, while also distorting the sense of where you are in the landscape. The whole project is something of a trick: work on what looks natural only began in 2008, and the grassy paths to the main entrance cover what was the staff car park only two years before. Anders Byriel, the company’s chief executive and son of one of its co-founders, draws a comparison with the past, saying, “The ice pulls back and this is what is left.”
Kvadrat has worked with Eliasson before – in furnishings for the artist’s 2007 Serpentine Pavilion (with Kjetil Thorsen) – and Byriel has been a fan of the artist ever since Eliasson and Vogt’s installation of ponds, earth and fog at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria in 2001. But this is the first time Kvadrat has commissioned an artwork work for itself, rather than supply custom fittings for a project – such as the grey and gold curtains for Thomas Demand’s photographic show at Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie in 2009, or the material for Aamu Song’s Reddress (2004).
To accompany this greater emphasis on commissioning work, this month Kvadrat is bringing out a book, Interwoven (published by Prestel), a history of the company and its products, and its past and present collaborations. It also contains a chapter devoted to grey sheep – not just a tribute to wool, Kvadrat’s main material – but the actual Icelandic sheep (a very rare breed) that are also part of the pastoral art installation.