Stockholm Design Week is almost over. I am opinionated and I feel a lot of things for this week. First of all – I am extremely excited and proud that this event has grown into an important, lively and fun place. Every one I know internationally either is here – or wants to be here. I would say that the design week in Stockholm has grown in importance. It is today absolutely more important than the design week in London, or even Paris. I would dare say that this design week is the second most important design event in Europe (western part of the world??). Of course first place goes to Milan. Of course.
Stockholm Design Week 2019. It’s fun. Parties and exhibitions everywhere. Lots of people. Great atmosphere. We are missing some players like Gubi, Hay, Jörgensen, Asplund etc, but in general – everyone is here.
But I would like to compare Stockholm Design Week (or basically any design week) to Eurovision. You know, that tacky music event that runs every year. Why, you ask… Well is Eurovision a cultural event, pop culture, important or what is it? I will come back and see if we can find any parallells to Stockholm Design Week.
Eurovision Song Contest. Some acts make you laugh, some acts lack creativity, someone sings flat, someone has cute dancers and sometimes you find a star like Carola. And just like Eurovision we wonder – why can’t Great Britain send a good act for once.
And there is always this discussion about if the song contest is important, necessary enough and can you really compete in music and why doesn’t Malta win? We get opinionated, engaged and every now and then there is an act by ABBA, Katrina and the waves, the obscure French artist etc. And we’re happy.
But when Eurovision starts talking about how important they are for lifechanging politics, we get sceptical. Of course we see protests agains Russia, Swedish artist Loreen made protested against Azerbajdzhan, there have been protests against Israel, etc, etc.
But can Eurovision Song Contest change the world? Or should we see it as a fun act with no importance?
So. The design week in Stockholm (or any other place) is really like Eurovision. It is camp and fun. But is it political? Is it handling important issues of today?
We are going through extremely difficult times with a lot of value changes. Climate and sustainability is extremely present. Consumerism is going down. According to Swedish association Svensk Handel 10 000 shops will close in five years. Big brands like Toys R Us are closing. Swedish housing behaviour is changing to an extreme and we are not moving, building houses or offices any longer. Offices should look like hotels. Hotels look like our homes. Homes look like an instagram post… And then we have immigration, #metoo, etc, etc…
These questions – can design solve this?
Some design organisations say yes. According to Swedish design association Design Sweden they say: “Today, design is present in all companies and organisations and is an unquestioned cornerstone for all start-ups and new initiatives. From its unique vantage point – exploring and analysing emerging behavioural patterns and cultural shifts – design plays a vital part in shaping our surroundings.”
Some designers say no. In an interview in Sweden’s largest morning paper Dagens Nyheter the Guest of Honours at Stockholm Furniture Fair talked about in China. Villages are demolished. 300 villages are disappearing every day. The journalist ask “Can you as architects and designers do anything about the urbanisation?”. And Lyndon Neri answeres “No, abolutely not. When we started this studio, I thought we could change the world. I had so much energy. But the financial interests are so powerful, and they don’t care about design or creativity if it doesn’t generate money. They want houses drawn by architects so that they can charge more. I am depressed, because I have previously tried to create change, but over time I realise how difficult this is.”
Contemporary discussion on design and challenges today are talked about in seminars and talks – but we dont see it in our products at the fair. As journalist Annica Kvint basically say: “we see retro and the only updates to our contemporary life are sockets in easy chairs and sofas”.
So… Stockholm Design Week. I love this design week in my home town. But sometimes I am not sure if I should look at it as sequins and dance moves or as objects that can help me live a better life… I would like to see design handling issues like death of retail, lonliness (UK have a minister of lonliness), bullying, getting off the grid rather than being constantly online, health, housing solutions when millennials refuse to leave home, global warming or climate change (there is a difference between producing objects sustainably and producing objects that can handle flooding or heatwaves during summer…), talks about copyrights etc, etc.
The Stockholm Design Week looks nice, but I am not sure it is addressing the problems of our times. It is just as important as Eurovision. Don’t get me wrong. I love camp music, and I love Stockholm Design Week. But we need to call it by its’ name.
Here are my ten favourites for 2019.
1. Neri & Hu
I’ll be frank. I was not overly excited over the Chinese designers Neri & Hu. I basically saw it as a flirt with the huge Chinese market. But I was suprised. This architectural installation is amazing. The house has different rooms for different needs. Airy and intimate at the same time. Getting glimpses of people in other room without disturbing. Etc, etc. Well done.
Above picture is mine. Super difficult to photograph… As far as I have seen, Kajsa is the only one present from the Malmö based project Whats Matters. The Malmö project is initiated to make researchers meet designers. At various laboratories there are new technologies, new materials and new understandings researched. What Matters matched ten researchers with ten designers. And Kajsa made a new lamp with the research from Prof. Dmytro Orlov. Incredibly relevant.
Part of an exhibition in Stockholm city, curated by Annika Kampmann.
3. Table by Jesper Ståhl for Design House Stockholm
Our everyday life is constantly changing. Today our private homes will have to handle the change of number of people. One week a family can consist of 15 people, and the next week only two people. And that is because we marry, re-marry etc, etc.
The table by Ståhl is a plain and simple. Perhaps a bit too plain, but still extremely interesting. Same table can handle three settings. 30 cm, 60 cm and 90 cm… Compact and flexible living.
Norwegian mega brand Flokk managed to make an exhibition about sustainabily totally interesting, sexy and wonderful. Set design by Amy Hunting and Oscar Narud. No real new products (who needs new products 2019??) but wonderful anyway.
5. Nikolaj Thrane Carlsen and Jennie Adén
Maybe not fair to put two different designers from two different countries and two different exhibitions together – but they have a similar look…
Above lamp by Jennie is very interesting on many layers. She graduated just 2018 from Beckmans and experiment with foraging design. She got out into the forest picked mushrooms and made a new material. Jennie is Swedish and this is from the exhibition about craft and design at Svensk Hemslöjd curated by Cia Wedin.
A similar project is made by Danish Nikolaj. He has been gathering seaweed to make a new material. This is exhibited at Green House at the fair.
Fairly small design producer Articles manages to produce a handful of innovative things. Like the table by Björn Dahlström with a skirt. Useful to hide cords or just giving texture.
The small sofa by Anna von Schewen is intersting on several layers. The size is interesting. Hallways or small apartments, for instance.
7. Hooks by Last for Källemo
Design group Last (Åsa Jungnelius, Fredrik Paulsen and Gustav Nordenskiöld) made hooks or coathangers for Källemo. Initially for Nationalmuseum and now in production. Called Aldente as the spagetthi.
Student Felizia Matthews made a project in pine wood. Stacking pieces on top of eachother to make graphical patterns. And then made into beautiful, crafted objects.
9. Kasthall “Feathers”
Last year Louise Hederström made a carpet for Kasthall inspirered byt the greenery of the forest. This year Kasthall looks for birds. With advanced production they manage to make a carpet that feels exotic, exclusive and creative. And crazy.
10. Josefine Alpen for Olby Design
This small sofa table is extremely trendy with it’s sculptural shape. I am intrigued by the designer but also producer Olby Design. Small scale, local production. They were off the market for a few years but now they are back. I am glad to see them at the fair again.