09 February 2021

A ray of light in pandemic-inspired misery: a physical indoor event that is actually being held! The final-year students at Malmstens Linköping University have packed up their best work and taken it from the quiet campus out on Lidingö to Sergels torg in central Stockholm.

Superellipsen, Sergels torg, Stockholm
Jonathan Pakvis

Outside the entrance of Superellipsen, right under the Sergels torg fountain, a beggar is kneeling. A flock of chilly doves huddles closely on the black and white tiles.

Inside the newly renovated premises, in contrast, the surroundings are clean and proper. Attractive furniture and artefacts from the students are carefully displayed and illuminated. Catalogue and business cards lie around casually. Only 24 visitors may be in the location at the same time, and you must book a 20-minute slot in advance if you want to come in.

“Actually, it was a clothing shop, Kapp-Ahl, but they didn’t want to move back in here because of the pandemic, so it was just standing empty. But we did have to nag them a bit”, says Chandra Ahlsell, a teacher at Malmstens.

First exhibition together

Chandra AhlsellChandra Ahlsell, Malmstens teacher and designer.  Photo credit Jonathan PakvisIn a normal year, the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair would be on now in Älvsjö, with many other parallel events as part of Stockholm Design Week. Everything’s different this year, but a possibility for Malmstens and the two other large design schools in Stockholm, Beckmans College of Design and Konstfack, arose to hold a joint exhibition for the first time.

“What’s nice is that for once the three schools are regarded as colleagues and not competitors. We have different qualities, and are playing on the differences”, says Chandra Ahlsell.

The Malmstens exhibition, Contrasts, includes 19 projects that students from the three study programmes have designed, carpentered and clad. Further, several of the furniture items are journeyman’s pieces (gesällprov). And as is often the case, students have worked together on several of the projects.

Two students are always on site to guide visitors. We meet students of furniture design Jessica André and Camilla Synnergren. They themselves have contributed what is by far the largest item in the exhibition – Cocoon, a mobile activity-based table for meetings. It has been developed for producer Johanson Design, Malmstens collaboration partner at the exhibition.

“The table has integrated sound absorbers. The idea is that it should be possible to work in isolation also in open-space premises, such as schools, offices and other types of surrounding”, Jessica André explains.

“Design is about finding solutions”

The pandemic has had a negative effect on the labour market for graduates in design and handicraft, but Jessica André is optimistic. She has already spent some time working for an architect, and sees that the crisis opens possibilities.

“We must find ways of reaching out. Design is about finding solutions, and this is a real possibility. You have to be creative, find other ways of working”, she says.

Chandra Ahlsell emphasises how important it is to arrange a physical exhibition that can be experienced live.

“A physical exhibition is the alpha and omega. It’s here that you can take all the photographs that can be spread through the internet, giving rings on the water. Without the exhibition, it would have been difficult to market our programmes and students. And you have to remember – all the producers are in Stockholm.”

The exhibition at Sergels torg is open until 13 February. Further information is available via the link below.

Translated by George Farrants


Malmstens Linköping University

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