Public Luxury – a new design exhibition in Stockholm

Stockholm is blessed with two museums of design, but for the last few years they have been under renovation and internal struggles. Today one of them ArkDes flexed their muscles and opened a very well curated design exhibition. I am pleased.

Design is a tricky topic, especially in times where we have a tsunami of stuff. Do we need more stuff? No, not necessarily. We need better things. And design is a useful tool to make changes, better products and foster people. ArkDes is adressing design as a tool for public spaces. The topic is extremely important, especially in today’s environment where we have terrorism etc.

What ArkDes has done is simply ask some of the most established designers to look at certain perspectives and pay them to make new products. The exhibition also shows integration, humour and a bit of historical background. The whole exhibition has an interesting set design and architecure.

In the beginning I had problem with the topic. Public Luxury sounds like you are adressing “everything”. It is difficult to find what should not be part of this, but I am very content with the selection. I learn, I get engaged and I also get provoced at some places. I am mainly happy that they did not invite a group of 8 year old school kids and look at their drawings of “what kind of city do you want to live in?”. Instead they have relied on the professional angle.

Again, I don’t necessarily agree with all their selected pieces but that’s fine. This is a 9 of 10 grade. Well done.

ArkDes have assigned Åsa Jungnelius to make a stage/entrance to the museum and there for let the exhibition flow out to the public space just outside of the museum.

Just inside the entrance one can see how Åsa Jungnelius work with the public room.

Here one can also see her work for one of the new subway stops that is under construction. Åsa is one of Sweden’s most renowned artists and designers, best known for her glass.

Continuing outside. One section of the old parking space is now turned into a dancing space (dansbana). Made by Anna Pang, Anna Fridolin and Terese Selberg. Here you can connect your mobile phone and go crazy dancing. All the red sculptures are loud speakers. Both Åsa and the dance space have a clear feminist aspect and I totally love that.


The architecture of the exhibition is clear, clean and all nice.

But what really suprised me was that the museum had commissioned three of Sweden’s best known designers to make new pieces. In most cities all over Europe we now have concrete installations to slow down traffic. In Stockholm we have royal lions, in Halmstad they have salmon, etc, etc. What if three designers came with new solutions. In the picture above you can sense the concrete flower by crafts woman Hilda Hellström.

Do you like the colourful design by Hay? They you will have seen the works by Clara von Zweigbergk. Swedish Clara made a sittable stop. You can put several together and build an arena. Interesting.  Missing picture is by industrial designer Björn Dahlström that made a large mobile flower pot.

Moving, touching and educational was the installation by Jonas Dahlberg. He won the international competition to make a memorial site for the terror victims of Oslo and Utöya. You get to understand how he made the concept for public space. Compare with for instance the installations by Ground Zero in New York.

The installation is not only about the process of creation but also with politics. Despite winning, the project was called off and never built.

More celebrity. One of Sweden’s most renowned architects is Johan Celsing. He has been commissioned to build a new mosque in the outer suburbs of Stockholm. How does a Swede build a mosque? Here a dome in scale one-to-one.

But the public space also has a lot of questions. The museum adresses a lot of them. I am of course a bit interested in how they are chosen and prioritized. Just as an example. So we agree that islam should be visible in the public space – but what about judaism? Or native Swedes (Samish people)?

Well established design studio Ugly Cute make a foundain (?) that resembles a gate, considering the gated communities that are arising. Why that but not for instance urban gardening? But still – I will give carte blanche to this exhibition. Texts are everywhere and you feel as you are guided through someone’s selection and thinking. You believe the story they are trying to tell. An exhibition like this is not necessarily about knowing all the answeres beforehand. You want to be seduced and guided. And I was.

Finishing with some examples that I am not so sure about, but still interesting for the overview of the topic. Here a model for Sweden’s first crowdfunded apartment building.

Examples of how poeple take over the agenda for public space. In the city of Umea people are making memes about the politics for city planning.

A model of the city library in Stockholm and reference to the talks when people wanted to kick out McDonalds from the ground level. That did not happen.

Public furniture by Johannes Norlander. In his idea this should be the park bench for all parks all over Sweden. I personally dont want the same bench in all parks. I want each park to have their own bench. I believe in diversity.

To summarize. Stockholm has a very nice design exhibition over summer. Go to ArkDes to look at classical and contemporary Swedish design. You will not find “stuff” but actually get food for thought. How do you want your surroundings to be?



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