Bergen, Norway, has a reputation for being the rainiest city in Europe, but it’s also one of the prettiest—colorful, historic wooden houses overlook its harbor and the city is set in a picturesque valley surrounded by green mountains. Additionally, Bergen might just be one of the most creative places in Europe. Norway's second-largest city, just under 275,000 people live in Bergen, but its design influence is that of a much larger place. Thanks to the Bergen Academy of Art and Design—which nurtures young talent—the location has become a hotspot of creative agencies and design studios. Cool Hunting visited Bergen and the Academy as a number of current and former students were preparing to take part in its 100% Norway exhibition at the upcoming London Design Festival.
Norway is catching up with neighboring countries Denmark and Sweden when it comes to promoting its design talent, says Dave Vikøren, professor in furniture design at the Bergen Academy and, together with Petter Bergerud, one of the project managers for 100% Norway. The academy works hard to keep its talent in the city, which has created a network of designers who all live locally, making it easy for those working in the creative industries to collaborate and draw inspiration from one another. And the Norwegians are not just promoting home-grown talent but also home-grown materials—the use of wood is encouraged, which forms the base in many of the designers’ work.
For this year’s London Design Festival, 100% Norway has divided its exhibition into three parts—Experiments, Exploration and Results—that come together to create an overview of the whole design process, a "lifetime of design." We met the designers and took a look at some of the works that will be on display in September; below are a few of our favorites.
Of a Kind
One of the ways in which the Bergen Academy continues to support students after they have graduated is through its “design incubator” program. The initiative gives former students start-up support and a workspace in the beautiful USF Verftet, an artists’ community and creative venue with an impressive water view. Here, the designers receive help setting up their companies and have a studio in which to work for two years—during that time they can also use the Academy’s workshops. Two of the five designers currently taking part in the incubator, Hanne K. Ravndal and Mikael Pedersen, have been chosen to exhibit their work in London.
Their design studio Of a Kind will present Argus, a flexible desk lamp made of metal and wood. Light is directed through a glass dome that lets the user switch between a warm everyday light and a more focused light for detailed tasks. The elegant lamp is a classic example of Scandinavian design, combining the practical with the stylish. Of a Kind focuses on Nordic materials and quality and aims to create functional and environmentally friendly solutions, and Ravndal and Pedersen have already been able to give up their part time jobs to design full-time. Their work will be part of the “Experiments” section of the show, which is dedicated to mock-ups and prototypes created by young Norwegian designers.
Many of the designers who take part in 100% Norway have years of industry experience behind them, yet still keep close ties to the academy. Among them are Åsne Midtgarden, Ann-Tove Engenes, Kristine Dybwad and Elisabeth Ellefsen, partners in design studio Scandinavian Surface, founded in 2004. The studio has a store in Bergen, Norden & Verden (translating to The North and the World) which sells the designers’ own creations and a collection of products from around the world. The designers explain that “Nordic nature and colors” often inspire their work, as seen in their “Mosaic Forest” wallpaper, which will be part of the 100% Norway exhibition.
The dreamy, abstract representation of forest treetops consists of small water-colored squares that create a mosaic effect, which is equally striking from a distance and up close. Scandinavian Surface’s wallpaper is designed to be a good backdrop for furniture, and the group’s work has been used as murals in hospitals and in interior designs for art galleries and museum, where their calm, yet intricate patterns can really add interest to a room. In London, “Mosaic Forest” will be on display in the “Results” section, which gives an overview of the best contemporary work produced by designers living, studying or working in Norway, or Norwegians working internationally.
KnudsenBergHindenes designers Petter Knudsen, Anders Berg and Steinar Hindenes are all Bergen Academy alumni (Hindenes is an adjunct professor at the school) who have stayed in the city to work. Among their latest designs is an inflatable frame that can be used for trade show displays, photographers’ backgrounds and projector screens. In London, they will show two furniture pieces, one of which is the “SayO” chair, a perfect example of how Norwegian designers experiment with natural materials to create contemporary designs.
The striking chair, which is produced by Danish company SayO, is made using a 3D veneer production technique that folds layers of plywood to create both greater strength and a thinner seat base. It will be on display in the “Results” section in London and is available with different bases, woods and colors. KnudsenBergHindenes will also show its Cup table, which consists of a steel plate surrounded by an integral foam that rests on beech legs. The combination of the table’s light or dark grey hues and its wooden legs creates a simple, unmistakably Nordic design that would look good in most living rooms—Scandinavian or not.
Images courtesy of 100% Norway