Norway is a country whose being is often overshadowed by its two Scandinavian siblings: Denmark and Sweden. Yet the country of breathtaking fjords, lush forests and soaring mountains is quietly fighting back. In architecture, design and culture, the somewhat reserved nation of Norway is making strides. Drama series such as Acquitted (Frikjent), Occupied (Okkupert) and Nobel are on a par with the likes of Borgen, The Bridge and The Killing. Norway’s architecture and design sectors are coming to the fore, finally gaining (overdue) international recognition and acclaim.
Examples where Norway is making design strides:
As a nation, Norway has made a substantial contribution to midcentury Scandinavian design. With the country’s reticence to blow its own trumpet and indeed the world’s ignorance of Norway’s design heritage, a coffee shop and bar set about overcoming the status quo. Fuglen, a Norwegian cafe and bar based in Oslo and Tokyo, established Norwegian Icons. Staging a series of exhibitions in Oslo, London, Milan, Tokyo and New York, Norwegian Icons started telling the world about Norwegian design, both midcentury and contemporary (and having visited Norwegian Icons’ exhibits in London and Milan, this writer can vouch for their efficacy). Today, Norwegian Icons boasts concept stores in both Oslo and Tokyo, as well as offering interior design and furniture retail ventures.
Images via Norwegian Icons.
Scandia by Hans Brattrud
Norwegian designer Hans Brattrud designed the Scandia stackable chair in 1957 (part of his student project at the National College of Art & Design in Oslo). Brattrud reshaped a series of two-dimensional horizontal laminated ‘ribs’ to create the Scandia chair’s three-dimensional form. Shapely and smart in appearance, Scandia is a classic midcentury design that altogether fits a contemporary aesthetic. The Scandia chair was first produced in 1960 and later reintroduced by Norwegian company Fjordfiesta. It is available in a family of configurations.
Images © Fjordfiesta Furniture.
Alto by Andreas Engesvik
Oslo-based designer Andreas Engesvik created Alto in 2013. A desk whose form is classic and clean, its purpose is clearly presented without ceremony or fuss.
Saddle Chair by Angell, Wyller & Aarseth
Norwegian company Slåke has manufactured classic furniture for over seventy-five years. In a recent venture, Slåke worked with the Norwegian design trio Angell, Wyller & Aarseth, to create Saddle, a modest, warm and affable seat. Hanging pocket cushions (in leather or wool) are folded over the chair’s arms in a fashion similar to saddle bags.
A Norwegian designer known especially for his lighting creations, Birger Dahl’s approach to design was systematic and streamlined, while embracing simplification. Two of his finest works, Birdy and Dokka, are today produced by Oslo-based Northern Lighting.
Birger Dahl designed Birdy (originally known as s-30016) in 1952. A modernist table, wall and floor lamp, it received a Gold Medal award at the Triennale di Milano. Northern Lighting relaunched Birdy in 2013.
Birger Dahl designed Dokka in 1954. It received a Gold Medal award at the Triennale di Milano and was one of Norway’s best-selling pendant lights. Northern Lighting relaunched Dokka in 2007.
Images via Northern Lighting.
Bergen-based Saunders Architecture (renowned for the Fogo Island Inn and artists’ studios) was created by celebrated Canadian architect Todd Saunders in 1998. Saunders moved to Bergen (a seaport in south-west Norway) in 1996, following his studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax and McGill University in Montreal. Saunders’ architectural practice has refrained from fuelling normative expectations of architecture as urban, instead realising projects that work in harmony with nature.
Saunders Architecture designed the Aurland Lookout, completed in 2006. It is described as: ‘the almost literal placement of a gangplank jutting out from the side of the mountain, overlooking the fjord and town below.’ (A quote from Todd Saunders: Architecture in Northern Landscapes, published by Birkhäuser, November 2012).
A notable design in progress by Saunders Architecture is the Nord Arctic Lodge in Alta, Norway.
Images via Saunders Architecture.