Made By Sweden
The creativity and innovation of Swedish design owes much to the extremes of the Scandinavian environment, say two of the country’s most renowned designers.
“There is research showing that people are more creative in darkness,” says Swedish lighting designer Kai Piippo. “You are more concentrated, more focused and more productive. You also sleep more, whereas in the summer in Sweden you have so much extra energy because of increased daylight.”
Kai, whose practice has developed lighting for some of Scandinavia’s highest-profile buildings and public places, says that the phenomenon of Nordic light – the extremes of light and dark, summer and winter – is one of the characteristics that makes light so special in Sweden.
The pronounced twilight phase, the transition between light and dark defined by a very slow movement of light, is another. “In Stockholm in the middle of summer the twilight phase lasts an hour and 34 minutes. In Rome it’s 30 minutes,” says Kai. “The interesting thing with twilight is that everything is amplified. Things become quiet and slow down. Your senses are heightened. You hear more and see more. It’s a very creative time. This is when a lot of paintings are created.”
The relationship between natural light and man-made light is something Swedes are obsessed with. “Light is the main factor in the relationship between people and their surroundings,” explains Kai. “New technology helps a lot because we can incorporate light into architecture better so that it becomes an integrated part of the design, working in harmony with the natural light.”
“Twilight is a very creative time. This is when a lot of paintings are created”
Gert Wingårdh, arguably Sweden’s most celebrated living architect, agrees that the environment has helped to define Scandinavian design. “Traditionally, Sweden had a lack of resources and the harsh conditions of the north meant people had to achieve a lot with very little,” he says. “That’s intelligent, innate design.”
This design language has simplicity, functionality and minimalism at its core, but Scandinavian design is also beautiful. Gert believes natural materials play an important role in this aesthetic.
“There is a truth and honesty about materials in Sweden,” adds Gert. “If it looks and feels like wood, it should be wood. We like to use materials in their purest sense. Sweden can be very cold so we appreciate design that enhances a sense of warmth. Materials are very important in achieving this.”
Craftsmanship is crucial when incorporating beautiful, natural materials into luxury products, says Gert. “It’s nice if you have the feeling of a human hand in the way things are put together. That really is the premium touch.”
“The harsh conditions of the north meant people had to achieve a lot with very little. That’s intelligent, innate design”