When the words “Scandinavian Design” come up, most people quickly think about Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. But Norway is no slouch, either. Recently, the nation’s designers have been drumming up noise in the worlds of furniture, product design, and architecture. A string of exhibitions, a master plan for New York’s Times Square, and a robust program of roadside pavilions and viewing platforms highlight this Norsk moment.
Leading the way are architects Snøhetta, who have been on quite the streak in the last year, most recently gaining commissions to master plan Penn Station and Times Square, just ten blocks from each other in New York. While their Times Square design isn’t the firm’s most dramatic work—indeed, it’s intended to be a subtle backdrop to the chaotic public space—but it should be a welcome, nuanced addition to the commercial free-for-all that includes Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar.
Just a few blocks to the west—towards the Hudson River—the Royal Norwegian Consulate General showed off the country’s design prowess at a recent series of events. At Wanted Design, Calm, Cool and Collected: New Designs from Norway, a booth full of Norsk people and treasures, showcased the subtle use of wood characteristic of Scandinavian design. The up-and-coming studios on display included A-Form, Stokke Austad, Anderssen & Voll, Lars Beller Fjetland, Everything Elevated, Kristine Five Melvær, and Sverre Uhnger.
Also sponsored by the Norwegian government was Insidenorway at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), which hosted a group of classic Norwegian brands: Figgjo, Mandal Veveri, Røros Tweed, and VAD. Plates by Figgjo were offered in three styles and featured an elegant flat base and flared edge. Røros Tweed showed off textiles by other famous Norwegians—Anderssen & Voll, Snøhetta, and Bjarne Melgaard.
At Collective Design, Oslo- and Tokyo-based Fuglen Gallery showcased an assortment of objects both new and old, alongside work by Norwegian artist Arne Lindaas. The eclectic assortment showed the thematic extension of Norwegian modernism into the 21st century, encompassing much of the iconic work with new, up-and-coming designers.
In 2014, Norwegian Icons was curated by Fuglen and Blomqvist at Openhouse Gallery in New York, and showcased the Midcentury design that peaked in Norway around 1950–1970. This exhibition actually continued the tradition of Norway’s promotional shows on the international stage, while also setting up some context for the other shows.
It is not just international exhibitions and commissions that have drawn attention to Norway’s strong design culture. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration famously commissions its infrastructure to architects. Across the country, there are points of architectural interest, many of which are located in scenic areas. Most famously, the Trollstigen National Tourist Route has six stunning overlooks.
Besides Snøhetta’s iconic designs such as the Oslo Opera House, there are architects like Fantastic Norway and Reiulf Ramstad who are consistently producing top work. At institutions like Fuglen, 0047, and the Oslo School of Architecture & Design, intellectual communities thrive, fostering a strong community of young designers like MMW and Atelier Oslo.
The city will get an additional cultural boost during the 2016 Oslo Triennale, curated by New York–based team at After Belonging Agency, a group of five Spanish architects, curators and scholars.
Take a look at some of Norway’s top new design in the gallery below.