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I have another inspiring exhibition from Stockholm Design Week to share with you today, this time from Japanese brand Ariake. Each year it teams up with like-minded companies to take over a historic location somewhere in the city, and its previous efforts – ‘A Quiet Reflection’ and ‘The Phoenix Palace’ – were highlights of Design Weeks 2018 and 2019. Its 2020 installation, ‘The Archive’, proved to be no exception.

Curated by Hanna Nova Beatrice and styled by Annaleena Leino, it was held in conjunction with Japanese ceramics studio 2016/Arita and Danish design houses Friends & Founders and LE KLINT. The setting was Gamla Riksarkivet – Sweden’s former national archive building, designed by architect Axel Fredrik Nyström in 1890 and located in the heart of the old town, Gamla Stan. It’s rarely open to the public and so I felt very lucky to get a glimpse of its beautiful period features, which include wrought-iron staircases and balconies, soaring etched-glass windows, and a strange spiral delivery slide that twists down between floors.

The ornate architecture and slightly faded charm of the place provided the perfect backdrop for the minimalist pieces on display, all of which highlighted the many synergies between Japanese and Scandinavian design. I’ve talked before about the two traditions’ shared values – their joint focus on high-quality craftsmanship, their considered and functional approach, their lack of unnecessary details – and it’s perhaps no surprise that more and more projects combining Japanese and Scandinavian influences are springing up. But it’s particularly encouraging to see ones such as this, which fully respect each region’s heritage and which involve proper contributions from both sides, rather than just paying lip service or trying to cash in on a trend.

From Ariake – itself a collaboration between Japanese furniture factories Legnatec and Hirata Chair and a range of international designers – came understated tables, seating, shelving units and cabinets. All were made from natural materials such as white oak, ash, paper cord and burnt cedar, and incorporated elements inspired by Japanese spirituality, urban living or architecture. As well as old favourites such as the ‘Braid’ sofa, I spotted a number of brand-new pieces for 2020, including Rui Alves’ ‘Kata’ coat stand, Gabriel Tan’s ‘Rin’ sofa and Note Design Studio’s ‘Sake’ side tables, which have removable lids revealing hidden storage. And there were two just-launched designs from Norm Architects: the ‘Summit’ lounge chair, which is an homage to classic Scandinavian cabinetmaker chairs, and the ‘Lattice’ table, whose wooden-lattice legs take their cue from traditional Japanese shutters and play with light and shadow.

Ariake’s pieces were complemented perfectly by sleek designs from Friends & Founders, which was set up in 2013 by Ida Linea and Rasmus Hildebrand and which I’ve featured a few times before. Its collection is inspired by art and architecture and has a graphic quality to it, with lots of strong lines and striking geometric shapes. My favourites were the marble-based ‘Knockout’ tables, the ‘Stand Out’ coat stand, the arched ‘Arc’ floor mirrors and the curvaceous ‘La Pipe’ chairs with their tactile upholstery. I also loved the way a pair of monochrome ‘Novel’ chairs – first launched at the Stockholm Furniture Fair last year – had been positioned in front of an olive-green shelving unit stacked with minimalist white ceramics, creating a stunning display.

The various rooms of the exhibition were illuminated by Friends & Founders’ elegant ‘La Lampe’ series, as well as beautiful lighting from LE KLINT. Inspired by a folded paper shade crafted for a paraffin lamp by architect P.V. Jensen-Klint in 1901, its hand-pleated designs have been produced since 1943 and are now Danish icons. Its range encompasses everything from direct descendants of the original to more contemporary interpretations such as the ‘ARC’ and ‘SWILLER’ series, and many were created by other members of the Klint family. My eye was particularly drawn to the ‘CACHÉ’ lamps, whose steel cloches reveal a glimpse of LE KLINT folds poking out from beneath, and the ‘CALEO’ family, which features bronze stringing to emphasise the intricate patterns. I was also fascinated by a video demonstrating the pleating process, which takes place at the company’s studio in Odense and requires three years of training as an apprentice.

As for the ceramics from 2016/Arita, I loved them all. Established to revive and preserve the specialist pottery skills of the Japanese town of Arita, and now distributed in Europe by Skagerak, the company works with designers from all over the world to create beautiful collections that blend the traditional and contemporary. Examples on display included the white and azure-blue pieces of Netherlands-based Studio Week Somers, which combine classic Arita colours with modern spraying techniques, and the softly air-brushed vessels from Swiss duo Kueng Caputo. If I had to pick just one range to own, though, it would be Dutch ceramicist Kirstie van Noort’s minimalist tableware, decorated with simple shapes in earthy browns and terracottas. It was artfully displayed on one of Ariake’s shelving units and it caught my attention instantly.

So, another highly successful exhibition from Ariake and partners. I can’t wait to see what it has in store for Design Week 2021!

All photography by Abi Dare

The post The Archive – a showcase of Japanese & Scandinavian design appeared first on These Four Walls.

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