Last week, in the sunniest late spring weather Copenhagen has seen in years, the annual 3daysofdesign fair returned to the Danish city. Over the space of – you guessed it – three days, the event saw Danish brands present prototypes, launch products, and offer behind-the-scenes insights of the objects they produce.
Press trips to this kind of event can sometimes have a necessary herd mentality, but here journalists were split into two groups: one with a focus on architecture, and a second that spent time cycling and boating between different brands and showrooms; cocktail evenings and dinners. The most memorable of those dinners took place on the first evening, at a harbour-side restaurant named Barr – a North Sea-focused restaurant from René Redzepi and Thorsten Schmidt that recently opened on the original Noma site.
At Barr, food was served up with cutlery from studio Table Noir – whose single mission is to produce eating tools for the world’s best restaurants. For this range, the studio’s CEO Benjamin Folkmann Hansen called upon architecture practice Snøhetta, which resulted in simple knives, forks and spoons each made from scuffed metal. ‘Restaurant Barr has been chosen because the restaurant concept and people behind it are fantastic. It’s a world-class restaurant and it deserved a tailored Table Noir set of cutlery that is worthy of it,’ said Folkmann Hansen of the collection.
Led by director Signe Byrdal Terenziani, this year’s festival was the biggest yet. Speaking to other journalists and local designers, it comes at a time when the fabric of the city itself is changing. Recently, Copenhagen has seen a number of high-profile architectural projects – from Bjarke Ingels' Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant (complete with a ski-slope roof), to the super-exclusive Noma restaurant. Danish brand Menu is even getting involved, and is set to open its own hotel by November in a space opposite COBE’s Silo building. The brand also relaunched the Knitting Chair during the festival, which was originally designed by architect Ib Kofod Larsen in the 1950s.
'3daysofdesign was originally established to promote global awareness of the Danish design scene and Copenhagen as an international design capital,' said Byrdal Terenziani. 'We have noted that interest in the event is growing internationally, and is becoming an ideal meeting point to network - so why not invite international architects to take part of that?'
'We would like architects to get the possibility to experience the scenes of Danish design and architecture, to learn about its past and presence,' she continued. 'To gain knowledge about lighting and furniture, in the context of office spaces, exhibitions, restaurants and more in Copenhagen.'
It seems the way residents are working is changing too. During the trip, we were taken to two creative co-working spaces – perhaps a sign that Copenhagen is setting itself out as the city of the freelancer, although they’re still without a WeWork. In a similar vein, Danish brand Muuto worked with interior architect Natalia Sanchez to transform a co-working space named Nomad into a range of different office environments, all tailored to suit the needs of creative individuals. The workspace is housed inside a former courthouse in Nørrebro, which was designed in 1848 by Thorvald Bindesbøll, and features a huge, expansive staircase that leads through to brightly-lit rooms and spaces. Alongside its own products were those of small design studios and artists, a particular highlight being Helle Mardahl’s collection of candy-coloured blob-shaped glass lamps.
We were shown around the second co-working space, Better Office, by Managing Director Ulrick Bloch Nielsen. He set up the space after noticing a demand for flexible spaces for small companies. 'Co-working is booming at the moment. The majority of Danish companies are 5 or below employees. There’s a shortage of workforce so companies also have attention on war for talent. It’s easy and simple, monthly costs are known and they get at setup normally only restricted to larger companies. Not many want to be tied up on long rental contracts with large deposits.'
Elsewhere in the city, highlights ranged from an exhibition that paid homage to some of the world’s most iconic designers and artists, to a late-night opening of the Tivoli amusement park to celebrate a new 300-piece collection by Normann Copenhagen inspired by parts of the park.
Located in the old Royal Danish Naval Museum building, the Homage exhibition played host to a number of upcoming Scandinavian artists and designers, each chosen by textile brand Tekla and IOMA studio. Among them were Axel Wannberg, Gitte Kjær, Matilda Beckman, Pernille West and Jonas Trampedach – each paying tribute to the artists and designers that acknowledged space when creating their works.
The Homage exhibition played host to a number of upcoming Scandinavian artists and designers, each chosen by textile brand Tekla and IOMA studio
Among them were Axel Wannberg, Gitte Kjær, Matilda Beckman, Pernille West and Jonas Trampedach – each paying tribute to the artists and designers that acknowledged space when creating their works.
Lighting brand Louis Poulsen brought its factory to the centre of Copenhagen from the Vejen municipality. Workers were on hand to show how the PH Artichoke and PH5 models are made, while new collections were presented upstairs. Lighting designs were also debuted by Giopato & Coombes, the Milan-based studio founded by Cristiana Giopato and Chris Coombes. Inside their tiny pavilion, which bordered the city’s royal gardens, the two designers showed jewellery-inspired lighting fixtures – some shaped like bubbles frozen in mid-air, and others with gem-like detailing.
Across the road at &tradition’s Home of the Collector showroom, designer Jaime Hayon was on-hand to deliver a talk that delved into his processes, inspirations, and penchant for playful colour. ‘I've never read a brief in my life,’ Hayon revealed when discussing his collaboration process. It’s one approach, but maybe just maybe, not the one followed by Stelton’s collaborator Norman Foster. The Scandinavian brand debuted the renowned architect’s tableware collection at both its showroom and the Illums Bolighus department store. Speaking to the press group, Stelton CEO Michael Ring spoke of the process – how Foster had approached the brand himself, and how the jug handle took over 50 prototypes to perfect.
The Illums Bolighus showroom was also temporary home to a presentation of Icelandic design, led by the manager of the DesignMarch festival Sara Jónsdóttir.
The region’s design also took centre stage at its own embassy, where the Ambassador of Iceland Benedikt Jónsson unveiled Flag for a New Nation. The exhibition showed a selection of designs submitted to Iceland’s flag committee in 1914, when they offered the general public the chance to propose ideas for a new national emblem.
Back on the showroom trail, House of Finn Juhl officially opened its new space on the second floor at Frederiksgade, presenting newly relaunched pieces from Finn Juhl: the 48 Chair, the 48 Sofa Bench and the Cocktail Bench. Montana and Fredericia also took us inside their showrooms, and while Montana’s was splashed with colours and installations, Fredericia's boasted rooftop views of the city.
Nearby, surface design brand File Under Pop had transformed its showroom into a series of brightly coloured installations, imagined by director Josephine Akvama Hoffmeyer. This year, the studio presented the works of Mathias Malling Mortensen and A Hint Of Neon, led by Kristine Engelbrecht. Both artists used surfaces from the File Under Pop Paint Collection to create spatial installations.
At Mater’s showroom, the focus was on sustainability. Founder and CEO Henrik Marstrand spoke at length about the company’s efforts to source renewable materials, while design director Eva Harlou offered an insight into some of her designs, including the Winston daybed.
For those who weren’t in Milan for design week this year, Kvadrat gave visitors the chance to see the Really exhibition – in which designers were tasked with creating furniture from the brand’s solid surface recycled textile material.
The programme concluded with an enlightening talk from the enigmatic Patricia Urquiola at Paustian – who beamed in via Skype having been taken ill. Ever the professional, Urquiola spoke at length about her processes and work with both her own studio and Cassina, where she has been art director for the past few years.
3 Days of Design concluded on Friday 25 May.