In Swedish...

To an international audience this question – brought about by the opening of the new Öresund bridge – might seem odd, since a lot of people did not know there were any differences in the first place. As a Swede one is used to the fact that visitors, particularly those from overseas, tend to mix the two countries up, and name Copenhagen the capitol of Sweden. Certainly, both Denmark and Sweden have contributed strongly to the famous concept of Scandinavian Design, born in the Fifties and still more alive than ever.

What makes this Scandinavian tradition so vital is its affinity in values and forms with the international minimalism of the Nineties. The simplistic design of the Nordic countries (also Finland, Norway and Iceland) grew out of poverty and closeness to nature. During centuries the simple farmers developed a deep knowledge of the materials growing or just existing outside their houses – wood, stone, clay, leather, metals, linen and wool. In the twentieth century this democratic tradition of everyday design was carried on by the Nordic welfare states.

So the two countries on each side of the new bridge have a lot in common. However, there are also differences, not in the least concerning design.

The Danes are clever marketing people. With great skill they have placed their beautifully designed products all over the world – from the Ant chair and PH lamp to Stelton jug and CD-players from B&O. This thorough ambition and success in keeping all the already existing objects alive has also led to a certain conservatism in the view on form. A tendency sometimes criticised by the younger Danish designers.

The Swedes, though, are industrialists. As international in ambition as their Danish neighbours, but the task here has been steel, wood and engineering rather than textiles, porcelain and furniture. The Swedish design classics have not been able to survive commercially like in Denmark. At the beginning of the Eighties the concept of Swedish design was practically dead. This vacuum, though, also made it easier for a new generation of designers to flourish and to overtake the scene.

This is what we see today; Danish icons (like Jacobsen, PH and Wegner) and younger Swedes (like Sandell, Dahlström and Claesson-Kiovisto-Rune) also gaining international acclaim. The two of course – the old and the new Scandinavians -- are very useful to one another, and the interaction is already there if you scrap the surface. Young Swedes and Danes collaborate in different projects and Swedish companies, particularly in furniture, love to work with designers from the other side of the Sound. This tendency is not likely to vanish now, since the linking of the two shores by an eight kilometres bridge (designed by Danes).

Photo_ Åke E.son Lindman

INGRID SOMMAR
sommar@nybrogatan.com