Wednesday 8 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 8/2/2023

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Felix Odell

Nordic lights

It’s a Scandinavian special this week, as we check-in from Stockholm Furniture Fair in the Swedish capital (pictured). As part of our coverage, we visit an exhibition of work by new Nordic designers, speak to the team at TAF Studio and admire a newly revived shelving design by String Furniture. Plus: a carefully renovated Parisian apartment, a de-archived Lina Bo Bardi design and why Mies van der Rohe’s Berlin Pavilion just works. First, Nic Monisse.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Living rooms

“Even though we’re in Sweden, I’m going to speak English because we have people from all over the world here.” Those were the words of Bo Hellberg, chief marketing officer at Swedish brand String Furniture, when he launched its newest product at Stockholm Furniture Fair yesterday (see below). And it aptly sums up the outcome of the return, after a two-year hiatus, of Scandinavia’s biggest industry fair.

Since its foundation in 1951, the event has made the Swedish capital a must-visit destination in chilly February for designers, architects, journalists and buyers eager to see the latest designs that northern Europe has to offer. And so its cancellation in 2021 and 2022 was significant. Would the likes of the larger Salone del Mobile fair in Milan and the emerging 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen in sunny June make Stockholm irrelevant? Judging by the number of accents I heard on the opening day – American architects here, Japanese media there – and Hellberg’s assessment above, that certainly isn’t the case.

The visitors are here to see brands such as Norway’s Vestre and Normann Copenhagen, which launched new outdoor furniture and lighting, respectively, at booths in the bustling Stockholmsmässan. Others ventured beyond the trade hall (as part of the concurrently run Stockholm Design Week) to showcase their wares: Denmark’s Frama is launching a new chair at Konstnärsbaren, a restaurant, with diners enjoying lunch in the seats, while Carl Hansen & Søn is presenting its collection at the Nationalmuseum.

Alongside these established brands, emerging designers showing work in group exhibitions are proving to be a big draw. Acoustics company Baux presented the efforts of eight young designers commissioned to research the links between materials and wellbeing, while other young creatives had their work shown at Älvsjö gård (see below). The headline act in the fairgrounds, however, is Greenhouse, Stockholm Furniture Fair’s area for new talent. It is by far the busiest part of the showcase and a reminder that, despite the gloomy winter forecast, the future of Scandinavian design – and the role it plays in the global scene – is bright.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor.

The Project / Studio Razavi apartment, France

Subtle revolution

Finding ways to meaningfully preserve the character of an older building is a challenge for any designer tasked with its refurbishment. A balance needs to be struck between heritage and modernity. Studio Razavi has done just that with its smart modernisation of an 18th-century Parisian apartment overlooking Luxembourg Gardens by going beyond the building itself. “Our approach was to relate to the poetics of the neighbourhood,” says Alireza Razavi, architect and founder of the French practice. “Our wish was to opt for a simple and limited decorative strategy that would essentially focus on a few details, such as ceilings and glorified joinery.”

Image: Vincent Leroux
Image: Vincent Leroux
Image: Vincent Leroux

A restrained material palette featuring plaster stucco, travertine and walnut finishes allows for natural light to act as a material feature in itself, creating soft shadows when daylight moves over the smooth surfaces, curved walls and columns. Complementing this are a selection of objects and bespoke furnishings. Antiquities spanning millennia are juxtaposed with newer artwork and furniture, bringing a sense of timelessness to the home. The result? “What we strived to achieve was a feeling similar to that of a monastery,” says Razavi. And achieve it they have.

Designer’s note: A mix of old and new furniture in a heritage building will help the space feel contemporary while keeping in touch with the structure’s past.

Design News / Älvsjö gård, Sweden

Bonus tracks

The trade halls of the Stockholmsmässan are heaving with visiting designers and buyers attending Stockholm Furniture Fair. But countless galleries and showrooms across the Swedish capital are also showing wares from established and up-and-coming Scandinavian brands as part of the concurrent Stockholm Design Week. “Something is bubbling under the surface in Swedish design,” says Hanna Nova Beatrice, project area manager for Stockholm Furniture Fair and Stockholm Design Week. “There’s more colour and designers are finding new, unique ways to express themselves. There’s a newfound confidence that shines through in the objects they create: people are more daring and willing to show who they are.”

Image: Emil Fagander
Image: Emil Fagander
Image: Emil Fagander

Nowhere is that spirit more on display than at Älvsjö gård, an old manor near the fairgrounds. Here, 13 rooms have been remade into showcases for experimental and forward-thinking design. “This is where trade fair visitors can experience design in a novel way,” says Beatrice, who co-curated the exhibition. “I wanted to include a research-based and bespoke aspect in the fair, to present the breadth of the work that happens in the industry.”

That breadth, on show at Älvsjö gård, includes Malmö-based Lab La Bla (pictured, middle), whose work blurs the line between art, design and crafts, and the new playful-yet-timeless furniture Uppsala native Mattias Sellden (pictured, top). Those seeking emerging talent would be wise to visit.

Words with... / TAF Studio, Sweden

Guiding lights

Architects and designers Gabriella Lenke and Mattias Ståhlbom (pictured) launched TAF Studio in Stockholm fresh out of Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in 2002. The Studio has exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and co-led the creation of objects and furniture at a new restaurant at the Nationalmuseum in the Swedish capital, which reopened after extensive renovations in 2018. That’s when TAF started working with venerable Finnish furniture-maker Artek to create the Atelier Chair. Now that collaboration has continued, resulting in the Kori Collection of lights, which launched yesterday at Stockholm Furniture Fair. The five pieces that comprise the collection are inspired by the shape of a kori (basket). Ståhlbom offers some illuminating thoughts on the collaboration.

Image: TAF Studio

What is it like working with a historic brand like Artek?
It’s a dream come true. The people at Artek know wood incredibly well and what they make is superb. When we started the restaurant project at the Nationalmuseum, we called Artek and asked whether they were interested in working with us – and we’ve kept that relationship going.

Tell us about the development of the Kori Collection.
The starting point was the concept of a basket and finding ways to diffuse light to make it atmospheric and glare-free. We worked on the collection over the past three years and we’ve made tweaks right up until the last moment. The floor lamp, for example, became shorter and shorter until we found the perfect height when the light would show just right. That’s how we work: we take time with every product and collection. We prefer to invest more time into fewer products rather than churning things out. The Kori Collection is about permanence.

What sets the Kori Collection apart?
Many lamps today are designed with built-in lights but we went back to the humble bulb; we don’t want people to have to throw away the lamp when the light source dies. We designed a collection of luminaries that complement each other; that includes a floor lamp, reading light and pendant lamp that comes with three shades for different effects: direct or diffused down or up.

What is the role of lighting design?
We always work from a context of a space where everything is included in the design process, including the walls and ceiling. It’s natural for us to look at the entirety of an interior and lighting is a vital part of how a space feels.

For more from Stockholm Furniture Fair, tune in to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Bardi’s Bowl chair, Italy

Big dipper

In 1951, Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi came up with a radical idea: a chair that you couldn’t sit straight in. The Bardi’s Bowl Chair is shaped like – yes – a bowl. It comes with removable round cushions and rests on a steel frame. The seat’s angle can easily be shifted, giving its owner the freedom to recline or curl up in it however they please. The idea might have been a little too ahead of its time, however: only two prototypes were ever produced. That is, until Italian furniture-maker Arper discovered the archived drawings in 2012.

Illustration: Anje Jager

“It represents Bo Bardi’s idea of putting people at the centre of everything,” says Marco Benvegnù, head of corporate brand at Arper. “We couldn’t believe that such an icon of design had never been industrially produced.” In collaboration with the Instituto Bardi, which was founded to protect and promote the designer’s work, Arper adapted the armchair based on the original sketches and careful study of the existing prototypes at Bo Bardi’s home museum in São Paulo. Made in a limited edition of 500, the Bardi’s Bowl Chair is available in an array of colourful fabrics, as well as in the original black leather.

Around The House / Pira G2, Sweden

Happy return

At this week’s Stockholm Furniture Fair, an important design from mid-century Swedish architect Olle Pira is making its return to the trade hall – and soon homes across the globe. String Furniture has announced the release of an updated version of the Pira, the classic shelving unit designed in 1954 and first seen the following year at the Helsingborg 55 design exhibition.

Image: Pia Ulin

The new iteration, the Pira G2, is created in collaboration with architect Anna von Schewen and industrial designer Björn Dahlström and puts a contemporary spin on the original. “The ambition was never to design a retro-style piece of furniture,” says Dahlström. “Instead, it was to embrace the core idea behind the original Pira and create a taller, wider version.” The modular design can be free-standing or mounted on a wall and comprises shelves made from lacquered steel sheets and extruded aluminium poles that provide material contrast with the white oak or walnut details. Importantly, it can comfortably hold heavy books and objects thanks to its robust design – and will look good as a statement storage piece in any home.

Places That Work / Berlin Pavilion, Germany

In the frame

For Monocle’s February issue, we turned to a group of 50 leading creatives to answer the question of what makes a place – from an office to a garden, street corner or train station – work?

Each of the contributors, from award-winning architects to top furniture designers, were also asked to select a photograph that shows a place that answers the question and can serve as a source of inspiration for those seeking to build better environments. Here, Milan-based Britt Moran of Dimorestudio, tells us why Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Berlin Pavilion fits the bill.

“Mies van der Rohe was a timeless architect: from palaces to public spaces, everything he designed was contemporary. The Berlin Pavilion is a neutral but characterising and clean space, with a maniacal attention to detail that enriches it a lot. Both me and Dimorestudio’s co-founder, Emiliano Salci, find it brilliant.”

For more places that work, pick up a copy of Monocle’s February issue, which is on newsstands now.


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