Susanne Fritz

Autore

Susanne Fritz
Zürich   Svizzera

Slovenian Design


The "ISKRA: NON-ALIGNED DESIGN 1946–1990" exhibition held at the Architecture Museum Ljubljana (AML) came to an end in February. The exhibition provided an insight into the golden age of Slovenian product design, which lasted from the 1960s to the 1990s.
After the turbulence caused by the breakup of Yugoslavia and the economic hardships suffered by the new democratic republic of Slovenia, a new generation of young Slovenian designers is now creating a stir. After a short look back at the history of Slovenian design we will devote our attention to their work.
 

The Iskra group began as a small, state-owned radio workshop and by its heyday in the 1980s had developed into one of the country's leading manufacturers of electrical products, with a workforce numbering more than 85,000.
Slovenian Design
Poster for 1971 Iskra exhibition at the Design Center Stuttgart

In the summer of 1971, an exhibition featuring Iskra was held at the Design Center in Stuttgart, where the main focus was on presenting the company as the Yugoslav counterpart to the German firm Braun.
Just as the design department, headed by Dieter Rams, gave Braun's products their typical aesthetic, Iskra too had a legendary design department, which was led from 1961 to 1971 by Davorin Savnik.
After 1971, he continued to influence the style of the company's products as a freelance consultant to the management.
Other major industrial designers who worked for Iskra included Albert Kastelec, Marijan Gnamuš, Janez Smerdelj and Janja Lap, while Miljenko Licul and Ranko Novak designed the company's graphic identity.
Slovenian Design
ATA 30 telephone, designer Davorin Savnik, 1965

Slovenian Design
Oscilloscope by Iskra, designer Davorin Savnik, product graphics Danica Petrovič and Stane Abe, 1965–1969

Because the range of consumer goods that was available in socialist Yugoslavia was limited, nearly every household possessed a product by Iskra – and most people in Slovenia still think fondly of these everyday appliances, more than a few of which were masterpieces of design.
Slovenian Design
Pobi battery charger by Iskra, designer Marijan Gnamuš, 1973

Because the range of consumer goods that was available in socialist Yugoslavia was limited, nearly every household possessed a product by Iskra – and most people in Slovenia still think fondly of these everyday appliances, more than a few of which were masterpieces of design.
There are, however, further important landmarks in the history of Slovenian design, aside from Iskra:
Marko Turk was the first Slovene to receive an international design award for his AOL brand microphone. Turk's microphones are part of the MOMA Collection, as is the Rex folding chair designed by Nico Kralj. This bentwood chair from the year 1952 continues to sell well and is currently being produced by the Slovenian firm of Impacta. Rex has, over time, been extended into a full collection with the addition of a matching table, side table, bench and rocking chair.
Slovenian Design
Rex chair, designer Niko Krajl, 1952

Slovenian Design
ECS – Alpina Elite Racing Skate, designer Jure Miklavc, 2008

However, after the decline of Iskra, Yugoslavia didn't seem to have a talent pool for a young design elite, and the state took its time establishing the new role distribution.
The "Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana", which offers the possibility of specialising in industrial or communications design, is currently the only training centre for up-and-coming designers. Jure Miklavc, lecturer in the department of industrial design, lists the names of new companies that promote young designers, which includes Elan, the well-known manufacturer of sporting goods, lighting equipment manufacturer Intra, bathroom furniture manufacturer Kolpa, and Trimo, a producer of prefabricated building elements.
For its "Yumi" collection of bathroom furniture, which is made from the company's own "kerrock®"composite material, Kolpa received a "red dot" design award.
Slovenian Design
Yumi bathroom furniture, manufacturer Kolpa, 2010, photo © Kolpa

Jure Miklavc himself has designed a number of products for Alpina, including special boots for cross-country skiing and children's ski boots, as well as an LED lamp for Intra. He also works as an architect and designer.
Slovenian Design
Tywa LED lamp, manufacturer Intra, designer Jure Miklavc

The design consultancy Asobi acted on its own initiative after successfully participating in Milan and at the imm cologne by establishing its own brand Marvin, now followed by the "Ljubljana" outdoor furniture collection, which is produced by the German manufacturer Movisi.
"Ljubljana" consists of individual items of seating with or without backrest, which can be put together in a linear way and formed into chairs, stools and benches.
Slovenian Design
"Ljubljana" outdoor furniture collection, manufacturer Movisi, designer Asobi

Slovenian Design
Module of the outdoor furniture collection "Ljubljana", manufacturer Movisi, designer Asobi

Asobi's best-known product sold under its own brand is the "Isle Lounge Sofa", which was exhibited at the imm cologne, Salone del Mobile, ICFF and the London Design Festival.
"Gwig", an innovative pendant lamp that was awarded a design prize by the design magazine "I.D.", is only one of many lamps by Asobi that are produced by the lighting manufacturer Intra.
Slovenian Design
Isle Lounge, designer Asobi, 2007

Slovenian Design
Gwig pendant light, manufacturer Intra, designer Asobi

Slovenian Design
Gwial pendant light, manufacturer Intra, designer Asobi

Nika Zupanc, who has now become an internationally known designer from Slovenia, also studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, achieving a disinction. As can be seen from her CV, in 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Presernova award for excellence in industrial design.
Slovenian Design
Nika Zupancs pavilion at Salone del Mobile 2009; material: façade elements "Qbiss" by Trimo

Slovenian Design
Q-biss façade elements, manufacturer Trimo

As a designer, Nika Zupank has already co-operated with many well-known manufacturers. Most of her designs are characterised by a burlesque, slightly frivolous style. For her own label "La femme et la maison", she has created a sofa named "Tapisserie", which has a high backrest that ensures the privacy of the user.
Slovenian Design
"Tapisserie" sofa, designer Nika Zupanc

Slovenian Design
"Tailored Chair", manufacturer Moroso, designer Nika Zupanc

Her "Boy’s lamp" for the Slovenian lighting manufacturer Vertigo Bird has definite phallic features, and for Moroso she has designed the "Tailored chair", which is reminiscent of the wasp-waisted torso of a tailor's dummy. For the Netherlands label Moooi, she has designed standard lamps with a lace underwear look.
Slovenian Design
"Boy's Lamp", manufacturer Vertigo Bird, designer Nika Zupanc

Slovenian Design
"Lolita" lamp collection, manufacturer moooi, designer Nika Zupanc

Slovenian Design
"Force" pendant light, manufacturer Vertigo Bird, designer Nika Zupanc

The "Mrs. Dalloway" mini hot plate for Gorenje, which is reminiscent of a powder compact, was also presented as part of Superstudio Più 2009, but unfortunately never reached the production stage.
Slovenian Design
"Mrs. Dalloway" mini hot plate, designer Nika Zupanc, 2009

Apart from the "Boy’s Lamp", Zupanc is also represented at Vertigo Bird with her chandelier "Force", which seen from below looks like an aircraft's jet engine. Also for Vertigo, the Dutch-Slovenian architect duo bevk perović arhitekti has designed a linear, minimalist fluorescent lamp, whose cabling seems to cite the aesthetic of a electricity sub-station. One of the partners, Matija Bevk, graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Ljubljana in 1999, a year ahead of Nika Zupanc.
Slovenian Design
"Slim" fluorescent light, manufacturer Vertigo Bird, designer bevk perović arhitekti

Slovenian Design
"Bubble" smoke detector, manufacturer Vertigo Bird

The work of these designers seems to indicate that the political isolation of the former Eastern Bloc and the limited cultural influences on Slovenia until the early 1990s may well have been a good foundation for the development of new ideas.
Nika Zupanc, at least, is an example of how the design scene of 'old' Europe can quickly be revitalised by a new aesthetic.

Asobi on architonic Asobi on architonic

Movisi on Architonic Movisi on Architonic

Moroso on architonic Moroso on architonic

Vertigo Bird on architonic Vertigo Bird on architonic

Nika Zupanc on architonic Nika Zupanc on architonic