The theme of sustainability is not so much about safeguarding environment as about the conditions of life of mankind on a planet – our planet – which actually cares little about having a higher or lower temperature, or an atmosphere made of oxygen or CO2.
Actually, the image we have of nature as an authentic, uncontaminated place is to a great extent invented, driven by an idealized viewpoint dating back to the romanticism of the 1800s, which blossomed as a sort of reaction against the eyesores of the early industrial society, fueling the pursuit (in literature and tourism) of an alternative to the black smoke of cities.
An ideological opposition was formulated and continued throughout the 1900s, reaching us here in the present in practically intact form.
But this opposition has never been part of the Scandinavian world.
The great North, introverted and severe, has never put much stock in sugar-coated visions of nature, seeing the environment instead as something close up and fearsome, magnificent and indifferent.
From this perspective, a design culture has developed that has never made the individual expression of creative urges a true priority (in cold climates the emotions are kept inside for warmth), focusing instead on the definition of an ‘inner’ space as a place of protection from merciless external beauty.
Far from amusing itself with decorative frills, Scandinavian design has always tried to get straight to the point (in cold climates aesthetic calories have to be stored up against impending hard times), favoring psychologically warm materials like wood, to be shaped in essential forms derived from good common sense and a logical use of resources (in cold climates even the circulation of the blood is ‘minimalist,’ to safeguard the vital organs).
And yet today, in the globalized scenario of contemporary creativity, even Nordic design is taking on a new emotional warmth, never emphasized in any case, but clearly marked by an unprecedented polychrome approach to form that raises the aesthetic temperature once conserved in the traditional minimalist approach of polar furnishings.
This can be observed in projects like the Ghost lamp by Andreas Kowalewski for Woud, and the Aztyn Fallos / Runner (af08) carpet model by Atelier Bowy, movements of a new design symphony that opens up to timely melodic curvatures, in which we can notice an interesting visual rhyme with a project that is not strictly Scandinavian but in any case looks to the north, like the Par lamp created by the studio Trueing and Andreas Bergsaker for the event Norway x New York organized by Sight Unseen, bearing witness to how the new expressive codes of the ‘big chill’ are gradually heating up the world of design
in a wider perspective.
The great attention of the Nordic project to the 'emotional sensitivity' of the environment, made more acute than ever by the climate crisis, should also be underlined.
You can see it in the Reform Lounge chair by Jurij Rahimkulov for Reform Design Lab, whose bold shape succeeds in not obvious mission to actualize the organic composure of traditional Scandinavian furniture in a 3D printed structure with bio-composite material.
While the same philosophy, but on a one-off scale, presides over the Besitt table that Emeli Höcks and Carolina Härdh made with oyster shells, paper, bone glue and vegetable starch, or the Circular biodegradable sculpture that Höcks has always modeled with paper, sand and seaweed from the Swedish coast.
The seriousness of the game, a peculiar trait of the Nordic project, is then at work both in the paper sculptures made by Clara von Zweigbergk for Holzweiler and in the container Sketch Toolbox by Thomas Bentzen for Muuto, as still in the collection of Wang & Söderström for Hay.
Even the Ahoy table by Daniel Enoksson for Mitab, inspired by the ship's bollards used to fix the mooring lines, was shaped by a careful control of the aesthetic expressiveness, left free but recalled an instant before becoming mere formal complacency.
The versatility of this new logical and poetic lightness can even be expressed in clothing, as demonstrated by the On The Line Zip jacket designed by Kristine Five Melvær for ESP Oslo in collaboration with Røros Tweed.