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LDF16: SEEN visits Skandium

SEEN never has a problem visiting Skandium on the Brompton Road. The exquisite Scandinavian design on show there never fails to invigorate and uplift; bright ceramics, clean lines, the accent on wood and the cheering colours speak of a very particular taste and style, not to say a love of home.

SEEN never has a problem visiting Skandium on the Brompton Road. The exquisite Scandinavian design on show there never fails to invigorate and uplift; bright ceramics, clean lines, the accent on wood and the cheering colours speak of a very particular taste and style, not to say a love of home.

We were there to examine a new publication: Scandinavian Dreaming, published by Gestalten, and also to hear the panel speak about exactly what it is that distinguishes Scandinavian design. Dan Howarth, the US editor of Dezeen, chaired the discussion with Eero Koivisto, co-founder of Claesson Koivisto Rune, plus Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou of Space Copenhagen, all of whom were passionate about the subject.

seen-london_scandinaviadreaming
&tradition. Photograph by &tradition, from Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Eero Koivisto made a very good point about Scandinavian countries; you spend a lot of time indoors. Therefore it makes good sense to really think about your physical environment. Very often it’s about nostalgia for the things of childhood coupled with a thirst for travel and other influences. The Scandinavian terrain is tough and has few natural resources, so many designers drew on objects they saw abroad then came home and reinvented them. It was about looks AND utility. For example, many Kings of Sweden were French so the Baroque style was imported, adapted and reinvented. Design ideas have been recycled through history. 4000-year-old-glass from China was very similar to Scandinavian glass designs from the 1950s. There is literally nothing new under the sun.

Signe and Peter felt it was about values. A piece of design can be filtered through the values of the country in which it is reinvented. A design is not a thing in isolation, it is part of your life and your home therefore it has a greater significance, and so should be well made with durability and aesthetic value. All the things, in fact, that we associate with Scandinavian design. It’s about sustainability and passing objects down through the generations, the very opposite of throwaway. There was much discussion about the concept of ‘cosiness’ in Scandi design, which makes total sense, Scandinavia gets colder than most places, it therefore makes sense to create warm objects and to concentrate on the interior life; it’s dark for seven months of the year.

KBH Københavns Møbelsnedkeri. Photography by Gyrithe Lemche, from Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016

One of the most interesting points was about IKEA. Was it a positive or negative phenomenon? Peter spoke about the notion of ‘democratic design’ whereby things can be brought by everyone not just by the rich few, but that bought into question ideas of sustainability and consumerism. As Frank Zappa once said: ‘communism doesn’t work because people like to buy things.’ Does this idea cause IKEA to be essentially at odds with our traditional ideas about Scandi design, in that the ethos of the home-made and the heirloom passed down to our children is forsaken in the pursuit of the cheap mass-manufactured object that everyone has? There are no easy answers to this, of course. IKEA is a huge brand and we’ll keep buying from it because it’s cheap, but perhaps the lesson to be taken from the discussion is that there will also always be a market for the home-made and the expertly crafted, and sustainability has never been a hotter topic than it is now.

‘Scandinavia Dreaming’ is full of extraordinary photographs showcasing the very best in design and architecture. The pictures demonstrated just what the panel had been discussing; attention to interior detail, cosiness, accents on the hand-crafted and durable, beautifully polished wood, cheerful ceramics, colours and textures that stimulate and comfort when it’s too cold to go out. But more than that, it showed how clever design means that houses become part of the landscape, creating a calm harmonious aesthetic, the very epitome of Scandinavian design.

www.skandium.com

Credits

Cover: Space Copenhagen for &tradition. Photography by &tradition, from Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016.

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