I spent 3 days in the lovely city of Göteborg this week and I enjoyed every minute of it – even the freezing rain. I had heard that the Swedish took an enthusiastic, upbeat approach to life, which I noticed immediately in the warm smiles and nods of people I passed on the street and the polite smiles when I completely bumbled sentences in my elementary Swedish. However, on the morning of the second day, the clouds opened up and actually rained on the frozen city, turning it into a citywide ice rink. Cautiously and slowly making my way around the city, to my surprise, rather than grumbling, I heard laughter throughout the city all day. People laughing at themselves as they slipped and fell, friends laughing at their friend sitting on their bum, groups of people laughing as they either couldn't make it up a hill or couldn't keep from sliding down, and in my case, strangers laughing together at the whole situation. There are endless things to love about Sweden, but it was a day of the crummiest weather that truly won me over.
After checking in and dropping off my travel sack, I headed straight for the Röhsska Museum of Fashion, Design and Decorative Arts. The museum featured brilliant works in ceramics, textiles, production design, and furniture from the mid-1800's through the present. Modern concepts on industrial design in Sweden have an early beginning. Influenced by the Deutscher Werkbund in Germany, beginning in 1915, the Swedish Society for Industrial Design applied the new architectural aesthetics to a Socialist agenda calling for good designs for all of society. The Society believed that machine-produced architect or artist designed everyday goods could hold a value alongside objects of the Arts & Crafts movement. Despite positive reviews, these attractive household goods didn't reach the homes of the working class because a far more pressing concern was at hand – a housing shortage worse than anywhere else in Europe.
During the inter-war period, the government worked with modern architects to provide social welfare housing to the masses of urban Sweden. After the 1925 Paris Exhibition, Swedish Functionalist architects focused on function, rationalization and standardization, with the aim to create healthy and social community dwellings. After the Second World War, non-profit housing companies built a considerable amount of municipally owned housing, finally meeting the housing demand. At this time, designers once again focused on creating affordable well-designed objects for the home.
One designer that caught my eye several times in the Röhsska Museum was Stig Lindberg. After doing a bit of research, I feel like a bit of a numpty for not recognizing his name, finding he is, after all, considered one of Sweden's most important post-war designers. I had seen his pieces before, whether authentic or knocked-off, but I had no notion of his fame, productivity, or his subsequent influence on Swedish design. Stig Lindberg designed beautiful tableware, such as the Berså set, as well as textiles, ceramic objects, glassworks, and even a TV set. Though the Swedish Society of Industrial Design aimed to educate the public as to what was good taste, Lindberg often took a comical pen to his designs, creating a playful mockery of the whole idea. Then as it is now, everyone likes a witty cynicist with a sense of humour. As this article is getting a bit long-winded, and the photos say more than I could, I'll leave any further analysis of exciting Swedish designers until the next article.
Happy Holidays Everyone!
Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics