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MINDCRAFT15 was the Danish Arts Foundation’s design exhibition at Milan Design Week, and this year it was awarded a Special Mention, an appreciation received for its combination of outstanding works and spectacular exhibition architecture.

Does this mark the beginning of a new era for Danish design? It is no exaggeration to claim there has been a slight slump in the innovation from Scandinavian design recently, and many words have been uttered about how the weight of the history might be counter-constructive for upcoming talents trying to break the mould. However, over the past couple of years, we have seen signs of promising new talents.

With the concept of MINDCRAFT, The Danish Arts Foundation ingeniously emphasises the interconnection between craft and design, which lies at the very core of Danish and Scandinavian design. A profound respect for the material and its potential, the knowledge and experience of individual crafts, combined into exquisitely honest and clear detailing, is the basis of any Scandinavian design classic. And MINDCRAFT brings this tradition into the 21st century.

This year’s exhibition was presented in the poetic historical settings of Chiostro Minore di San Simpliciano, which is an old monastery in central Milan. The spectacular exhibition architecture was created by Danish Italian design duo GamFratesi. The main concept of the exhibition was a 500-square-metre mirror floor installed in the cloisters, which created an intriguing reflection of both the contemporary, Danish design and the historical setting of the old building complex.

The exhibition featured 14 new works by some of Denmark’s leading designers and craftspeople, and presented a wide range of works from the very conceptual to the very user-friendly.

The Castaway by the two Bartlett graduates Ben Clement and Sebastian de la Cour, known as benandsebastian, belongs to in the conceptual end of the spectre. The Castaway is a forgery of a transport case from a museum collection in Copenhagen. The object for which the original was made has been lost, as have all records of the content. The blown glass insert is moulded from the negative space occupied by the lost content.

Louise Campbell has become a household name in Denmark due to her commercial works. However, with Open 1, 2 and 3 she presents some of her more experimental designs in the form of a series of drawings that explore variations on a single set of rules: a total of 24 horizontal and 54 vertical creases are hand drawn with red felt-tip pens. As each wavy line expands or contracts the pattern, the same underlying principle leads to very different outcomes, based mainly on variations in spacing

The design duo Jørgensen-Depping presents a design for a shelving system called Eiffel. In this flexible shelving unit, sand-cast aluminium elements form the load-bearing construction with shelves made of lacquered timber. By attaching the loadbearing aluminium directly to the shelves, the system allows a variety of geometrical solutions, including a rectangle, a square, a triangle or a circle, all dictated by the shape of the shelves.

Henrik Vibskov is a well-known name in the world of fashion. When was asked to create an umbrella, he created what he named the Umspiral. This is a sculptural object that has preserved a recognisable form but lacks the functional purpose of the regular umbrella. The technically sophisticated Umspiral is made using the same materials and principles as a conventional umbrella. The canopy projects into multiple layers in a spiral-shaped system with obvious visual references to the DNA double helix.

MINDCRAFT15 generated significant interest during the design week and was very well received by the people of Milan, who appreciated the mix of tradition and renewal achieved by the exhibition. And as such it is a promising show of what might be the return of great Danish Design, in which material, craft and innovation go hand in hand.

by Runa Mathiesen