Published Thursday, September 29th , 2011
Modernity on a human scale and evolutionary approach. These are the values that, in the twentieth century, distinguished Danish and Scandinavian design from Western modernism: the creation of new, functional objects, suitable to the needs of today's society, but nevertheless inspired by the evolution of those objects inherited from the past and from other civilizations, instead of total rejection typical of the Modernist tradition of manufacturing.
A design that, rather than focusing on the anti-historicist controversy, continues to focus on the comfort of objects, on shapes and sizes full with organic and ergonomic values, on usability and the preferential use of natural materials. A "humanized modernism", as defined by recent historiography.
This evolutionary and humanitarian approach, on the other hand, has not stopped Danish designers to find innovative solutions and technical excellence, like the lampshade in three stages designed by Poul Henningsen in the '20s, with the bent plywood chairs by Arne Jacobsen or the 'invention of the injection molding in one piece of Panton chair, in the '50s.
While the international success comes back in the '20s, with George Jensen silver and PH lamps by Poul Henningsen produced by Louis Poulsen. But it’s only in the '50s and '60s, when companies and designers are finally arranged for serial production, that the Danish design furniture create those pieces destined to become true icons of the twentieth century: the objects designed by Kaare Klint, Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl, Hans J. Wegner, Mogens Koch, Børge Mogensen, Jørn Utzon, Poul Kjaerholm, come for consumers of a new era, that require the very modern, functional, comfortable and accessible products.
In addition, excluding Verner Panton and Nanna Ditzel, excellent researchers of new forms but with more selection, from the middle of last century the vast international audience appreciated Danish design because it has been able to offer objects with a durable and classic charm, timeless and with no expiration date.
The international success of Danish design products has found its own reasons, even in commercial skills and in the vision of some great entrepreneurs, with openness to foreign countries as well as involved in investing in the material and intellectual resources of their country.
Today some historical Danish design firms such as Fritz Hansen, Georg Jensen, Carl Hansen & Søn, Fredericia Furniture continue to produce icons of modern design, so to secure again, with those objects, an important share of corporate sales and the ability to invest in new designers and new products.
Since the nineties other design companies were born then, such as Hay, with three flagship stores in Denmark and abroad, representatives, Muuto, with many shops in Europe and U.S. and distributors in Asia. Norman Copenhagen, with a collection distributed in 77 countries and their famous flagship store in Copenhagen, defined by the same owners as "1700 square design madness."
In Italy the major Danish furniture companies guarantee their presence, even if the distribution is not widespread. Fritz Hansen has a showroom in Milan and, as much as Muuto, it is present in some multi-brand stores in other cities. MC Selvini Attik in Milan and Rome sell Danish modernism. The brand Bo Concept has its flagship store in Bolzano, Andria and Rome.
Apparently, however, exportations, the income position of historical pieces, the commitment of young designers and new ventures are not enough to replicate the success of the last century.
this consideration has been made by those companies, institutions and organizations that have decided to join forces and try out new initiatives for the international relaunch of the Danish design, with the Copenhagen Design Week, the biennial event which has seen its second edition this year in early September, with the slogan Think Human and the Index Award competition, established by the organizers as the most important international prize on the theme “Design to Improve Life."
With a strong synergy of the national economy and with the stated ambition to "bring Denmark into the international design elite", the initiative has been produced by the Danish Ministry of Economy, led by the Danish Design Centre, and participated by organizations, design institutes and major Danish companies, especially furniture ones.
The high involvement of institutional, organizational quality of the event and the huge investment of international communication are indicative of efforts made by the entire system in this attempt to raise the cultural and commercial design.
For us, observers with the same DNA, but on the hand creative and productive, it is surely useful to monitor these synergistic experiments and to see how, under the present conditions of global competition, saturated markets and emerging economies are able to affect the joint action of the political and social actors of a country.
curated by imma puzio