The Sympathy of Things

 

Perhaps it seems odd to recommend here a programme on BBC Radio about design when it was not specifically about architecture and design in Denmark but The Sympathy of Things that was first broadcast at the beginning of November raises what seems to me to be incredibly important general points.

The two programmes were presented by Amica Dall and Giles Smith of the architecture collective Assemble and they explored ideas about the designed and manufactured world and considered a wide range of problems about our relationship to the things that surround us everyday from "pavements and handrails to hairdryers and cereal bowls" and, along the way, asked the head of design why IKEA don't make toilets.

In our concerns about sustainability and in our growing uneasiness about global production, we may have reached a point of self doubt that is comparable to the conflict of feelings and soul searching about early factory-produced goods that, in the late 19th century, lead to the formation of the Arts and Crafts movement not only in England but also in Denmark and in other European countries.

We still seem to have an odd or at least an unresolved attitude to the relevant roles played by artists, craftsmen and designers and can be ambivalent about the benefits or not of mass production so now is certainly the time to consider and discuss this as we tackle issues like our use of natural resources, pollution from production and the growing impact of transporting goods from countries that have had low labour costs as the dominant economic model in a profit motivated society.

An important point made in the programme was that "there wouldn't be anything mass produced without the knowledge about how to do it by hand" but the problem is that as more and more is mass produced in remote countries, our skill base and, personally, our direct understanding of materials and how we use them is being lost.

Giles Smith suggested that “Learning to make things and to engage in richer more active relationships with materials can help you locate yourself in the world and witness your reliance on other people's skill and labour.” Is that indulgent … an attitude that is only possible in a wealthy country … or should it be a wakeup call for a World that seems increasingly disconnected?

 

The Sympathy of Things Part 1
The Sympathy of Things Part 2

Assemble

Practice Futures

 

A major exhibition, Practice Futures, has opened at KADK - the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.

The full title of the exhibition is Technology in Architecture, Practice Future, Building Design for a New Material Age, and this is an import examination of that area, if you see it in terms of a Venn Diagram, where the disciplines or professional expertise of architecture, engineering, techniques of construction and the development and the technology of materials meet and overlap.

Fifteen research projects are presented here from international PhD students working in six major European research departments and working with fourteen established partners including major architectural practices, engineering companies and construction companies.

These ongoing studies are reassessing well-established materials such as timber and concrete and rediscovering or reassessing or developing techniques to shape, bend, finish and join materials to achieve new forms of construction such as large scale, computer-controlled extrusion or printing and the development of new materials for large-scale building projects. 

This is about new tools and new approaches for reassessing traditional materials and established craft techniques but also about using computers to assess complex information; to solve unconventional design problems and to control systems for constructing new forms and new types of building. 

Projects presented here are prototypes to demonstrate customised solutions to realise challenging new construction projects that not only have to take into account the need for high energy conservation but also have to tackle rapidly-developing problems or social pressures from population growth, and, as a direct consequence, find new solutions to the demands of cities that are growing at an unprecedented speed. This is construction design trying to deal with political and economic constraints and with the added and pressing demands of global climate change.

KADK Udstillingen og Festsalen
Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 51-53
1435 København K

the exhibition continues until 7 December 2018

 

Dinesen

 

 

Dinesen, the Danish floorboard company, did not have a major exhibition in their showrooms in Copenhagen this year for 3daysofdesgn but I called in there on the way to look at the new showrooms for by Lassen that are on the third floor of the same building Søtorvet.

They have an amazing display that runs down the centre of the showroom with the base of a Douglas fir with the bark still attached but sawn through into enormous planks. A visitor had counted the tree rings and the fir, from a forest in South Germany, is thought to have been 117 years old when it was felled.

 

 

 

In from the base, more bark has been removed and the sawn planks are more obvious and then from there, running on down the showroom, is a table made from planks from the tree that are 50 metres long. FIFTY METRES.

It's truly astounding and it shows, in perhaps the most tangible way possible, that the Danish love of wood for furniture is not just about style or taste but about a deep understanding of timber and an appreciation of it's importance and a deep knowledge that comes from experience and decades … no not decades but actually centuries of working with wood in this country.

Dinesen

Just a few days earlier I had taken family, who were visiting, to the Viking Museum in Roskilde. The ships there - dating from the 11th century and excavated from the fiord in the 1960s - are stunningly beautiful and amazing for their size; for their striking design and for their engineering and above all because they show that shipbuilders in Roskilde a thousand years ago were masters of the skills needed to work with the timber and understood how to realise designs that were strong and did service for decades.

Outside, in the area between the museum building and the water of the fiord, there was a demonstration of various shipbuilding skills, using traditional techniques, and one craftsman was dressing the surface of a split timber plank with an axe. A tree trunk had been split with wedges then than being sawn … aa ancient technique that meant thin planks could be formed that took into account the twists and natural faults in the wood. With a few swings with the axe, the surface of the plank was taken back from rough fibres and splinters to a surface that was smooth and almost unblemished.

If anyone wants to know just why Danish furniture in wood is so good then the answer is simple … all it takes is a 1,000 years of experience.

Vikingeskibs Museet, Roskild

Normann for 3daysofdesign

 

 

Design stores throughout the city put on special events for 3daysofdesign but Normann can always be relied on to have dramatic displays in their store in Østerbro.

For this year, the sharp pinks of last year have gone and for now the huge space of the main part of the store has been subdivided by massive grey curtains that drop the full height and form spaces for room-like displays but with mirrors and large bold stacks of blocks to display chairs and the effect is certainly theatrical.

 

 
 
 

 

The company took this opportunity - the events of 3daysofdesign - to launch their new Tivoli Collection. The most obvious pieces are a new take on traditional Danish wooden toys in bold colours but, more significant, is a new co-ordinated range of home accessories all taking as a starting point the inspiration of the pleasure gardens of Tivoli in Copenhagen. The launch was during 3daysofdesign but the full range will be available from the Autumn so ready for the build up to Christmas.

This is certainly an interesting development. Most furniture and design companies produce ranges of objects from novelty tableware to candleholders to purely decorative ornaments that supplement the main range of furniture and the more practical but often unexciting ranges of basic and practical household items like plates or bowls or flatware and if you know your design world you can spot what are obviously company colours or typical shapes or even predictable materials but here, with the Tivoli Collection, there is a very deliberate rethink of over 300 pieces to create coherence … so much so that Normann themselves are talking about the Tivoli Brand.

From the start, Normann were noted for the colours they used, usually on bold deliberately simple and uncluttered shapes for their furniture, and they were one of the first companies to mark a clear rejection of the more conservative Danish colour palette of the late 20th century and the first decade of this century … so they replaced pale natural colours with strong and deep colours for fabrics.

Maybe, with the Tivoli Collection - with the use of much more decoration and the use of gold and so on - Normann are again heading a different move away from the stripped back and uncluttered rooms normally associated with Scandinavian homes to something that many will feel reflects more complicated and more individual lives. To me it seems a bit like a return to the days of Biba in London and the very first collections of Habitat … not the simple designs from Scandinavia and Germany that Conran introduced to British homes but the Moroccan rugs, the rope plant holders, candles and brass watering cans that filled his stores and pulled people in. Essentially, looking at that change as a social historian, it was all about a break away from post-war austerity … about individuality and about young adults wanting to buy things that were interesting and hinted at excitement and travel and a broader more open viewpoint …so  perhaps the more ornate accessories from Normann mark that point where cool and rational Scandinavian design seemed too much or, rather, too little for getting away from austerity economics.

 

Normann ... launch of the Tivoli Collection

 

3 days of design 2018

 

3daysofdesign - the big annual design event in Copenhagen - begins on 24th May

The programme is now available on the event site ... with so many companies and studios and manufacturers opening their doors and with exhibitions in so many different venues - including embassies - then it is well worth planning your route ahead and using the transport set up for the three days

Skandinavisk - pop up shop

 

 

Skandinavisk - the people who make scented candles and diffusers and, more recently, a range of perfume oils, soaps and hand creams - have opened a pop up shop in Værnedamsvej in Copenhagen and they will be open until 26th April.

Although this is a short-term venture, a huge amount of work and care has gone into the design of the space from the customised front window - matching the graphics of their cotton carrier bags - through to the pine display shelving and the use of greenery. 

They have produced Voices ... a magazine to explain the company ethos … with images and interviews reminiscent of life-style magazines like Cereal. That is certainly not a bad thing … just a very good way to explain their approach. There are interviews with an editor; a photographer; a food stylist and a publisher - one with photographs of her home on one of the smaller Danish islands; one with her home in a Swedish forest; one who grew up in a small community on a fjord outside Oslo and - to complete the Nordic set - the publisher is from Helsinki.

So it really is about telling the story of how life in the Nordic countries has inspired the scents Skandinavisk have created.

With this web site I try to tread a distinct path - away from the life-style blogs - but that does not mean that I do not appreciate a story because that’s the way to understand the what and the why and the how.

Certainly what is clear is that, as so often in Denmark, behind the products and the beautiful design is a huge amount of thought and that covers not just what is produced and how it is made but how it is presented and so much depends on the details ... for Danes the over-riding principle with design is if you do something then you do it properly … so here the glass and ceramic candle holders have wood lids; for the white ceramic candle holders the design is raised; the names of each scent are chosen to reflect the mood to describe the mood that scent evokes and, of course, simple but pitch-perfect photographs and graphics.

 

Skandinavisk

Værnedamsvej 6, 1620 Copenhagen

Monday to Friday 11.00 - 18.00

Saturday 10.00 - 16.00

SKANDINAVISK-Pop-Up-store-Copenhagen-PhotographyMikkelTjellesen_01.jpg

image from SKANDINAVISK

 

KADK Afgang Sommer’17

 

This weekend is the last opportunity to see the exhibition of the projects and work of this year's graduates from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation … a densely packed show of the talents and the phenomenal imaginations and skills of the students who have just completed their courses in Copenhagen.

There are profiles of the students and photographs and descriptions of their work on the KADK site.

The exhibition ends on 13th August. 

KADK, Danneskiold-Samsøe Alle, Copenhagen

Danish Design Awards 2017

Oko E-bike designed by Kibisi for Biomega

 

 

Nominated designs and the recently-announced winners for the Danish Design Awards for 2017 can now be seen in an exhibition in the entrance lobby of Industriens Hus on H.C. Andersens Boulevard in Copenhagen … the headquarters of DI or Dansk Industrie which is the Confederation of Danish Industry.

The awards were divided into an almost bewildering number of categories - including Better Learning, Daily Life, Fostering Partnerships and an award for the outstanding design for Improved Welfare - but this simply reflects a diverse range of modern products where imagination or lateral thinking and the application of good design principles can resolve a huge range of problems in modern life.

All the finalists and the winners are on the Danish Design Award site and it really is worth spending time to look at all the designs and products shown there because it does prove that good design really does matter and that the implementation of good design principles and the appreciation of well made and well designed products permeates through so many aspects of life in Denmark. 

 

note: the text of the exhibition is in English and the web site is in Danish or English.

continues until 29th September 2017

The Scandinavian range of walking frames designed by Mads Schenstrøm Stefansen and Anders Berggreen for Byacre - winner in the Improved Welfare category

KADK Afgang Sommer’17

 

 

There is an exhibition of the projects and work of the students who have graduated this summer from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation (KADK) in Copenhagen.

There are profiles of the students with some photographs and short descriptions of their work on the KADK site.

The exhibition ends on 13th August. 

KADK, Danneskiold-Samsøe Alle, Copenhagen

an “Adidas Original”

publicity photographs from Adidas/Kvadrat and pen portrait from Designmuseum Danmark

 

 

… or should that be an Adidas / Kvadrat collaboration with a Stan Smith classic and a Vibeke Rohland original?

Vibeke Rohland, the Copenhagen artist, designed the fabric in 2005 and Squares has been in production by the Danish textile company Kvadrat since 2008 and is available in ten colour ways.

The collaboration between Kvadrat and Adidas was so top secret that even Vibeke was kept out of the loop until the first publicity came out this month. Her reaction? “Cool” Had she no idea at all … well there had been a very weird phone call from the design department at Kvadrat back in February asking what size shoe she wears … it did seem odd for any sort of company publicity material but then she forgot all about it.

Adidas missed a publicity trick as Vibeke can regularly be seen running … and I do mean running … up the harbour from her studio to Toldbod and beyond.

Maybe these sport shoes wouldn’t get past the Wimbledon white-only dress code but for anywhere else they sure beat plain canvas.

The shoes will be available from early July in three different colour ways.

Vibeke Rohland

Squares from Kvadrat

Dursley-Pedersen update

 

 

Back in May there was a post here about the Dursley-Pedersen bike that had just been added to the collection at the design museum in Copenhagen.

The bikes are still in production but I have still not seen any actually being ridden in the city so it was worth a trip over to Christiania - to the bike workshops of Christiania Cykler there - to see the current models.

I’m still not sure how people on these bikes cope with Copenhagen cobbles or is that the real benefit of that long low-hung hammock for a saddle - or cope with the pressure and rush of a Copenhagen peloton at full speed on a commute over one of the bridges and through the traffic. 

The options for different handlebars and modifications to the arrangement of the frame were impressive but I did note that none of the bikes in the showroom had that viscous-looking spike as all the bits of the frame came together above the handlebars in the early version … surely lethal if you hit a rut or a drain at the wrong angle and go hurtling over the top when the bike stops abruptly. Versions had the handlebars at the top so if they are straight then the posture is upright … sort of more Dutch … but some had handlebars that swept down like demented bull’s horns. Perhaps that’s the way to deal with pedestrians who try to cross when their little man is on red and your light is on green … 

5C - design project

 

 

Back at the beginning of May there was a post on the site about the new buses that have been put onto the 5C route through the city. But the buses are simply the most obvious part of a complicated and carefully co-ordinated design project.

New bus stops have been built along the route and the longer buses meant that bus bays had to be extended at some stops so the work was co-ordinated with the city roads planners. 

There is a clear colour scheme for the buses with a strong blue and rich yellow and this continues across textiles and graphics but this was not simply a matter of creating a new “house style” because it had to be seen as a step on from existing designs … not too close so it was boring or barely worth the obvious investment but not too much of a difference to require a steep learning curve. Staggering back from work or carrying loads of shopping and pushing a kids buggy you don’t need to be confronted by something so unfamiliar that you are not sure where to go or what to do.

There are far more doors to get on and off the buses so whereas before the entrance was generally at the front past the driver, the new buses can be entered at any of the five doors so there had to be new graphics to explain this and now the doors do not open automatically but with the press of a button … both on the inside but also on the outside. The machines for clocking in and out, some with options for adding extra passengers to your ticket, that have until now been found only on railway and metro platforms are now used actually in the buses.

There are novel features that reflect the much larger number of people on each bus so vertical poles at some points actually split into three - so more people can hold on - and at the articulated join of the two parts of the bus there are barriers to stop you falling against the concertina of the link but this bar is padded so you can use it as a bum rest if you are standing on the join between the two sections.

There are also much-improved graphics for passenger information at a high level - to be seen over people standing - and as the bus follows a long route with a lot of stops that cross other bus routes and rail stations the graphics on a long panel at the centre mark the progress of the bus and the options to change to other routes at each stop.

It would be interesting to know just how many designers were involved on the full project and what the timetable was to interact with quite so many different contractors. This is an extremely good example of just how important good design is even if, for many, it exists very much in the background of their lives. 

 

 

3daysofdesign at Frederiksgade 1

 

working drawings shown by Overgaard & Dyrman along with many of the tools that they use to make their metal and leather chairs

 

The large apartment building at Frederiksgade 1 is close to the Marble Church and has been hemmed in by engineering works for the new metro station so for several years the front entrance has been reduced to a sort of narrow alley fenced across by high dark-green hoardings and has had a ‘temporary’ wooden ramp over the front stone steps. 

But this building is home to an amazing group of design companies. In fact it connects through to the furniture store nyt i bo that is sort of across the courtyard at Store Kongensgade 88 … sort of because at upper levels all the apartment spaces, all round the courtyard and above nyt i bo, are occupied by design companies. For design in Copenhagen it is - to use a word I hate using - a hub.

Here there are offices or studios or display space for House of Finn Juhl, File Under Pop, Helle Flou, Overgaard & Dyrman, PLEASE WAIT to be SEATED, Vibeke Fonnesberg Schmidt and others … and, of course, across the top of the whole thing, Getama.

For 3daysofdesign nyt i bo hosted a number of pop-up displays and demonstrations by companies including dk3 and Sika-Design.

One of the entries in the programme for 3daysofdesign describe the place as a “creative society” and packed out with visitors on the first evening I guess that is a much better description of the place than as a hub.

 
 

Erik Jørgensen + Montana in Bredgade

 

At the start of 3daysofdesign - the Copenhagen event when stores and galleries and design studios have open house - there was an official launch for a new joint venture for the Danish furniture companies Montana and Erik Jørgensen for the opening of their new design studios and show rooms on Bredgade - just beyond Designmuseum Danmark - in the street of top-end design stores, antique dealers, auction houses and galleries.

The partnership or rather their co-habitation will be interesting to follow. 

 

Erik Jørgensen was founded in 1954 by a saddle maker and upholsterer and the company has a well-established reputation for extremely well-made furniture from a back catalogue of important designs by furniture designers of the classic period including Hans Wegner and Poul Volther … Jørgensen manufacture the Ox Chair by Wegner from 1961 and the Corona Chair by Volther that was designed in 1958.

However, Jørgensen have also commissioned contemporary and young designers for important new furniture designs including the Hector and the Bow sofas from Anderssen & Voll and Shuffl from Anne Boysen. Of course these designs make full use of the company’s skills in upholstery … particularly for upholstery over what appear to be difficult or at least unconventional shapes.

These pieces are exceptionally well made and robust so the company is generally seen as a contract design company that is well used by architects, and designers for top-end commercial interiors. A main office and display space out at Nordhavn, at Pakhus 48, will remain but Bredgade is clearly a move into the more domestic side of the furniture market although not into direct retail.

 

 

Montana was founded in 1982 and is well known for both their very confident use of strong colours and for their storage systems that are now so extensive that they can be combined for almost any space and any storage needs. 

What the two companies have in common is an incredible sense of design self confidence. So this should now be the place to take anyone who tells you that they find Danish interiors too white, too bland for their taste and just too much pale soaped oak.

Montana will keep their retail space at the city-centre end of Bredgade - on the corner of Sankt Annæ Plads - but this second building in Bredgade will be a major venue for their studio and sales staff.

 

For anyone fascinated by design, but not working in the industry, it is easy to under appreciate just how important commercial sales are to many large design companies so this building is not where you can wander in off the street to buy a chair or a book shelf but is the place for meetings and serious sales and to inspire potential customers with strong shapes in strong and often unconventional arrangements or colours although it seems more than likely that the Bredgade studio will feature as the backdrop in photo shoots.

What makes it interesting to look around studios like this during events like 3daysofdesign is that you begin to get at least some idea of just how important a visually inspiring work environment is for people working in design day in and day out. Owners of good wine shops presumably don’t drink any old super-market plonk in the office and great restaurants presumably don’t expect their senior staff to eat beans on toast so definitely no table tennis here or kids’ slides from one floor to the next.

Erik Jørgensen

Montana

Smaller Objects at the Swedish Embassy

 

Many of the pieces in the Smaller Objects collection have been designed by the Swedish architecture and design studio of Claesson Koivisto Rune but there is also a Swedish stoneware bowl, some glass from Italy and objects designed and made in Japan.

What unites all the objects is not just the very high quality of the materials used but the pieces have that hall-mark of design at the highest level in that form, function and material are balanced. In fact, it is that balance of form, function and material that makes these objects minimal in the most obvious sense … in that you realise as you look at and then you hold the objects, it would be very very difficult to add anything more or take anything away without destroying that balance. These objects are refined - not in the sense of being polite and cultivated - though they are that too - but in the sense that the design has been refined or reduced down to that point where it looks and feels right. Good minimal design is about reduction … not about going straight for the basic.

These objects also demonstrate that incredibly important aim for the best design when actually you realise that although the piece appears, at first, to be primarily about appearance and style … what, in fact, is crucial is the obvious and careful consideration of how the pieces function to make even an everyday task more enjoyable. 

The Japanese notebook is a good example where you realise that here is something that not only is beautifully made - with the experience that comes through a manufacturer who has long-established craft skills - but how someone uses a notebook has been carefully reconsidered so that even turning back a pre-cut tab to mark a place becomes a simple pleasure. That probably sounds precious or pretentious but one clear reason for - maybe the justification for - designing something that is better - or is more beautiful or is better made in beautiful materials - is that the finished object should enhance life every day when doing everyday things.

Smaller Objects.com

 
 

editor's note:

the images are set to scroll through automatically but holding the cursor over an image should halt the change to the next image and should reveal information about the object

Norwegian Constitution Day

Today was a Norwegian flag day - Constitution Day - and Norwegians in Copenhagen gathered to march to the church of King Haarkon … the Norwegian church just outside the city defences around Christianshavn.

It was a good excuse to take photographs but not obviously much to do with either Copenhagen or with design … but then of course Denmark and Norway are what, in England, would probably be called first cousins once removed - and like all cousins they fight and argue but fiercely defend each other if anyone from outside the family dares to say exactly the same things - and what are national costumes if not very very carefully thought-through design where colours and styles can be different but those variations have to be agreed by everyone or it is just clothing … it is design used for bonding and branding - in the sense of being able to identify others in the same group - and being proud of that bond.

One Norwegian bar in Copenhagen has announced the launch of a new cocktail to mark the day called Bersærker for “praising our viking roots with loads of snaps” which is a slightly different form of bonding.

an extended bus designed for an extended route

A new design of bus has been introduced on one of the most heavily used bus routes in the city that runs across Copenhagen from Husum Torv to Sundbyvester.

The new 5C is five metres longer than the old 5A buses they replace but they hold far more passengers - in fact 65 more so up to 147 people - and there are more doors with five entry / exit points along the length of the bus and these can be opened by passengers - with large push buttons on the doors - rather than just being controlled by the driver - so more like the system passengers are familiar with on suburban trains.   

There will be significant environmental gains as the buses are CO2 neutral - fuelled by Biogas, they will emit 72% less NOx and 33% fewer particles and there is also a reduction in noise when compared with the old buses.

Statistics for this route are astounding - there are 20 million journeys a year - and, with the new larger buses and new stretches of dedicated bus lane to relieve some congestion on the route, the passenger numbers are predicted to increase by around 5% to an average of 2,200 people an hour. To put that into context Copenhagen airport had just under 29 million passengers last year.

This is an important example of co-ordinated planning as the buses have been funded by the municipalities of Herlev, Copenhagen and Tårnby and upgrading the route has included those new dedicated bus lanes - to reduce delays - and work on new bus stops with wind breaks and more digital traffic information. 

 

more information on the web sites for movia and State of Green