Upholding the values of craftsmanship and timeless beauty that typifies Scandinavian style, Swedish architect and designer Jonas Lindvall goes beyond tradition, creating new classics that reflect a spirit of modernity, with a respect for the past.
Since graduating from Gothenburg’s HDK School of Design and Crafts and Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Arts in the early 1990’s, Jonas Lindvall has risen to become a designer and architect of merit. He set up his own studio Lindvall A&D in his hometown, the southern city of Malmö, at a time when it was no more than a mere thoroughfare to Denmark’s capital; Lindvall has flourished into one of the region’s most celebrated stars of design and architecture.
Between his architectural studies, Lindvall studied furniture design at London’s Royal College of Art. Furniture design projects such as his Oak table and Speyside sideboard – regarded as design classics – have garnered much acclaim, including the Excellent Swedish Design award four times consecutively and a place in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s permanent collection. However, it is his structural works that have singled him out as one of Sweden’s leading architects. Best known for creating luxurious villas that exemplify simplicity, elegance and glamour, rather than showy curves and exercises in ostentation, Lindvall’s architecture grabs one’s attention for all the right reasons, namely an inherent understanding of his craft.
On the eve of the October 30, 2009 opening of his latest project, the scenography for a new exhibition, Dekadens, at Helsingborg’s Dunkers Kulturhus, we spoke exclusively to the architect, designer and scenographer about his venerated style.
Jonas Lindvall’s definition of luxury:
Something that is out of the ordinary
If luxury were…
Something that means something special to you, that makes you change your state of mind, or that makes you happy.
Someone who does something that makes you happy, such as a ritual like preparing a nice meal for you.
My little favorite spot at the beach where I can reflect and be alone.
Cary Grant in North by Northwest.
Scandinavia and the Nordic region boast an illustrious architectural heritage. What are the defining characteristics and the allure of Scandinavian architecture?
Simplicity, clarity, understatement, and a careful consideration of daylight, as there is not too much of it.
You have a great interest in history, which period interests you the most architecturally?
Medieval and Romanesque architecture. I find churches and monasteries particularly interesting.
Who is your favorite architect?
What would be your ideal architectural project?
A luxury hotel with a spa.
Gastronomy is one of your many passions; did the cuisine and menu of Bloom in The Park’s chef Iggy Vidal influence the interior design? If so, in what way?
I wanted it to be a backdrop for both the food and the team that work there, so that they, i.e. the food and the people, stand out in the best possible way.
Bloom’s design is quite a dramatic departure from your more celebrated use of woods and more natural materials, was it specifically for this project, or will we see a new direction of style in the future?
I would like to think that I always use the “appropriate” for any project, tools that I have in my toolbox. I try to use the appropriate materials for the project in hand, instead of working in a specific style. However, I do realize that I do have a style, so it’s good to get away from myself. I try to meet up to the demands of the client. It is very different to make a luxury restaurant, as opposed to a residential project.
Which satisfies you the most?
I think what satisfies me the most is to do different things, rather than the same thing over and over again. I’m really happy to design a luxurious restaurant one day, and a cheap bar the next.
You recently moved into property development with your current project, Saltimporten. Since the beginning of this century, Malmö has been going through an incredible period of regeneration. What do you think of this, as an architect, a developer and, of course, a resident of the city?
I think that one should be careful because it’s a regional city, where not too much happened for a long time and then it began to develop rather quickly. I think that some of the projects that have gone up are just a little like the gold rush in the United States. There are practical matters that need to be resolved, such as the housing shortage that we have in Malmö. They just build for the sake of building to offer new flats for the people who come, as opposed to doing something outstanding that will last for decades or centuries. It’s also interesting when things do start to go about faster than we’re used to, like the growth of the university of Malmö and a number of companies that have based their Swedish or Scandinavian headquarters here. There’s also the Øresund Bridge and the airport in Copenhagen. Also, in some respects, it has been affected by the fact that it is cheaper in Sweden than in Denmark. It’s quite a strange situation in that in Copenhagen you have apartments just standing there empty, while in Malmö there is a shortage.
Seeing the Saltimporten project from both sides, as both architect and client, how does this affect your approach to the project?
The definite advantage is that, in some respects, you get rid of the client, which therefore takes away some of the compromises that you would have otherwise. It’s nice for a change. There’s a Swedish saying that the more cooks, the worse the food is, so the fewer people involved in a project, the better in some respects; particularly as I’m not too comfortable with compromises.
Your work also incorporates industrial design, from your award-winning Oak table by Skandiform and the Halliwell chair produced by Japanese producer Idée, to rugs and throws, produced by local manufacturers. What changes are you seeing in the design industry?
In some respects I think it’s changed for the worse. There are a lot more pieces coming out these days than there were 20 years ago, but it’s also the case that I just feel that a lot of these things don’t last very long. The years of conceptual design were very funny, but they haven’t made for very good products. At the end of the day I’m a firm believer that products should, to a large extent, function like scenography. Design to me isn’t really art. I don’t mind the odd one-off product, but it’s like if you drink champagne every day it becomes boring. If all the pieces that come out in the future are only attention seeking things then I don’t think it’s good, and that’s been happening for a while. There are so many designers that are making things just for attention.
Your most recent project is the scenography for a new art exhibition, Dekadens, at Dunkers Kulturhus in Helsingborg, featuring the work of many leading artists, including David Hockney, William Hogarth and Ingmar Bergman. Could you tell us about the ideas behind the design of the spaces?
We are making a scenography based around the works of art. The basis of the exhibition is Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, which shows the decline of a certain individual (Tom Rakewell). I think what we tried to do more than anything else is to create an ambience within the entire rooms where the artwork is displayed, rather than just showing art in a naked white room. We took some of the narrative from the images, making the rooms work together with the themes and the emotions within the works.
Was there ever any concern that the scenography would detract from the works?
Well, there is always that danger, but the aim was to make them even stronger.
What struck you most about works within the show, and which pieces really stand out for you?
The Hogarth ones definitely do, and I love the Paula Rego pieces. We’ve done very little in the rooms where the Rego works are, because I think that those paintings are extremely strong themselves…although that’s not to say that Hogarth and Hockney aren’t, but for me, the Rego works really jump out of the canvas in some respects.
Could you name your favorite artists and favorite works?
Anish Kapoor is one of my favorite artists, and I quite like North European art from the 15th, 16th and 17 centuries, particularly Dutch artists such as Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan van Eyck.