Copenhagen Design Week report
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Danish Crafts has certainly not failed to attract our attention with the clarity of their stands and products at Milan’s Salone and at New York’s ICFF throughout our life span at Wallpaper*, but the Copenhagen Design Week (opens in new tab) proper has been off our radar in recent years simply because it flunked out - by its own admission.
Aware of the need for a comprehensive view of all on offer in Denmark (as well as inviting representatives from surrounding Scandi countries Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland to take part) an enormous effort this year was put into its resurgence by the government and official bodies as well as the royal family, it turns out.
See a selection of the INDEX award winners and Suzanne's highlights from elsewhere in Copenhagen
Set for the last week of August, the fair comprised different happenings throughout the City of Copenhagen, notably at the Danish Design Centre (opens in new tab) where Danish Crafts (opens in new tab) showcased “It’s a Small World” – presumably they were aware of the Disney show of the same name (as it happens Disney’s inspiration for his first theme park came from Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens just opposite the Design Centre).
Off piste there was Showhow, installed in a warehouse in the K district, an exhibition of sustainable design, and then the more hefty, as far as the industry is concerned, Code 09 (opens in new tab) (Copenhagen Design 09, of course) at the Bella Center near the airport (parquet-floored airport I might add, with not a swirl of fabric in sight).
To make even more sense of the timing of events, organisers chose to coincide with the INDEX awards (opens in new tab), international and responsible – “Design to Improve Life”, the INDEX awards, now in its sixth year with prizes every two years, is the largest design prize in the world with an overall value of 500,000 Euros (divided into 5 for different disciplines) and is supported by the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs, Georg Jenson, Royal Copenhagen and Fritz Hansen, to name just a few.
Finalists were awarded with their designs represented in perspex bubbles in a City square for all and sundry to view. It was rather lovely bringing design to the public in this manner and a joy to drift through the man sized bubbles looking at small as well as grand schemes (Brad Pitt's pink tents in maquette (opens in new tab), however, did not fully represent the gravity of the work, but reading on, if the viewer bothered, the info did give better insight). Winners were announced to the press on the morning of the ceremony and the evening was swank with a black-tie ceremony at the Jean Nouvel designed Opera House.
Worthy winners were a heart-monitoring system for childbirth in third world countries based upon the wind-up radio principle, a cooker likewise for the developing communities where carcinogenic poisioning is a major hazard and an eco car system with a business plan that works like the mobile phone model, where you buy your mileage as opposed to the source. The California-based firm A Better Place (opens in new tab) (I assume the irony of this with their move towards travel safety and living longer - has not escaped the firm) will lease you the electric battery to your car, replacing at “filling stations” which will sort out the problem with electric vehicles today since they run out of juice so readily. Israel and unsurprisingly Denmark have already signed up to the scheme and Renault is about to design the car itself.
But the winner of the “Play” element of the prize wins my vote - although I also like the micro financing website Kiva. Pig 05049 by Christien Meindertsma (opens in new tab)is a book created following three years of research about a real pig (there is one pig to every human in Holland, it seems) which produced 185 products, the designer concluded, including materials for bullets, insulin and over-the counter headache pills as well as the usual sausage and bacon. The point of the project was to indicate just how unaware we are of our surroundings. It is not only a good idea, overwhelmingly educational and amusing, it is also well designed.
Copenhagen itself is the cleanest City in the world and has been at the vanguard with its good ideas for decades now (such as the bicycle lanes being on the inside so bicycles move around the cars at intersections as opposed to be crushed under their weight) and remains a City of neoteric thought, as it appeared from discussions over lunch with one of Denmark’s most successful architects (still so young) Bjaerke Ingels of BIG architects (opens in new tab) who informs me his Shanghai pavilion this year will take a taste of Denmark to China by flying in the Little Mermaid herself.
“The real one” I question, “Yes, we are taking her away and Ai Wei Wei (opens in new tab) will be making a temporary replacement” he adds. Goodness, I muse, hasn’t he heard of the term being “Shanghai-ed” – the guilt of the Elgin marbles fresh in my mind? He laughs, adding the firm will be building a velodrome around her so close proximity should not be too possible. It is an endearing idea although not entirely indicating the best of Danish architecture. I suppose it is a matter of pride, “and economy” he says, and why not.
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