From Nowhere to Everywhere


From Nowhere to Everywhere

By: Mica Allan

'Sipp og Hoj' by Þórunn Árnadóttir.

Published in the 2014 January-March issue of Iceland Review & Atlantica – IR 01.15. Words by Mica Allen, Photos by Páll Sebastian Ziegler.

The Icelandic design world was out in full force on November 20 for the first annual Icelandic Design Award at the National Theater in Reykjavík.

Delighted by the new initiative, Sara Jónsdóttir of the Icelandic Design Center described the new award as “a long-called-for project.”

Sara hopes that it will “cast a spotlight on quality design and architecture in Iceland, as well as raise the overall ambition within the field and serve as an important international platform for Icelandic designers and architects.”

Presented by the minister of industry, the aim of the Icelandic Design Award is to celebrate new work produced by a designer or design team, an architect or studio and to recognize achievement and excellence.

A five-member jury from the Icelandic design world decides the winning entry who consequently receives the prize of ISK 1 million (USD 8,000).

The Catalyst

Beating 100 entries and three shortlisted nominees, the winner, Designs from Nowhere, was created and led by filmmaker Karna Sigurðardóttir and design curator Pete Collard. The winning entry is a collective work by designers Max Lamb, Þórunn Árnadóttir, Julia Lohmann and Gero Grundmann.

Created in collaboration with local companies in a collection of towns in East Iceland, the project uses something Iceland has in abundance: nature.

According to the jury, the winning team’s creations showed a “connection of people, places and material sources” that resulted in “a dynamic dialogue from which new material outcomes derived.”

The inception of Designs from Nowhere started in September 2012 at the conference ‘MAKE it Happen’ in East Iceland, an event bringing together creative thinkers, designers and cultural leaders to explore the development of future projects in the region.

This proved to be the catalyst for the four winning designers who went on to develop a series of workshops in 2013, culminating in Designs from Nowhere.

'Lagarfljótsormurinn' train made from driftwood and reindeer antler. By Gero Grundmann and Marcus Nocte.

Using a range of materials, the winning pieces capture the essence of Iceland, having one foot in its rich heritage, celebrating its natural resources, and one foot in the future, where innovation is key and clouds no longer just indicate the weather.

Appropriately, the design processes involved traditional techniques and innovative approaches.

Old and new materials used were quintessentially Icelandic; representing the ocean with fishing nets, seaweed and driftwood, and representing the land with reindeer antler and volcanic rock.

Far and Wide

The winners brought with them a wealth of experience from designing in Iceland, the UK, Japan, Australia, China, South Korea and Croatia. Their work on Designs from Nowhere gave them the opportunity to become familiar with East Iceland, develop new skills and to partner with locals.

Working with material from the ocean, Þórunn embarked on net-making with the support of master net maker Þórhallur Þorvaldsson in Eskifjörður and Julia and Gero gathered driftwood and seaweed from the coastline of Borgafjörður eystri and developed its use with the support of Þorpið, a design and development project in Egilsstaðir.

Using materials from the land, designer Max combed the hills in the Djúpivogur area, acquainting himself with the geology of the region with the guidance of geology expert Vilmundur Þorgrímsson.

Designs from Nowhere has been shown at a design conference in Moscow and at the London Design Festival.

Exploring the process behind its creation, a 30-minute documentary film recounts the experiences of the designers as they developed their award-winning project.

Given that the aim of the Icelandic Design Award is to “bring focus to the importance and quality of Icelandic design and architecture” it seems that the winning design has already begun to be showcased at an international level and started to elevate Icelandic design.

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