The honorary award of the Icelandic Design Awards 2021 goes to Gunnar Magnússon, furniture designer and interior architect

October 29th, 2021
Photo/Aldís Pálsdóttir

The Icelandic Design Awards 2021 took place on the 29th of October in Gróska. The recipient of the honorary award at the Icelandic Design Awards 2021 is Gunnar Magnússon, furniture designer and interior architect for his characteristics that are exquisite and make his work unique as distinct representatives of a prime period in Icelandic furniture design. His children received the award on his behalf from Lilja D. Alfreðsdóttir, minister of education, science and culture. 

From the jury: 

Gunnar’s author characteristics are enchanting forms and apt use of material mixed with functionality and quality construction. Genius solutions made from simplicity and respect for the material. Gunnar’s work is identifiable – geometric forms are prominent, and they shine of joy and play. Timeless design, which is confirmed for example by the fact that Fólk, a young Icelandic design company, is now reproducing a selection of his work.

Gunnar was born in Ólafsfjörður in 1933. He finished a journeyman’s examination with Víðir wood workshop in 1956 where he learned from his mentor Guðmundur “the blind” and familiarized himself with diverse ways of manufacturing furniture. At the same time, he studied at Reykjavík Technical School and Reykjavík School of Visual Art where he was mentored by Sveinn Kjarval in furniture design. Afterwards, Gunnar worked with the well-known furniture manufacturer Fritz Hansen before he started his studies in furniture- and interior design at Kunsthandværkerskolen in Copenhagen in 1959. Already during his studies, Gunnar was winning various awards and his work was manufactured by companies like Søren Holm and Christensen & Larsen. After finishing his studies, Gunnar worked together with Børge Mogensen, a skilled designer whom he admired, before moving back to Iceland in 1963.

The first year back in Iceland, Gunnar worked with architect Skarphéðinn Jóhannsson before starting his own wood workshop that he ran until 2002. Gunnar’s years in Denmark were in the prime of Danish design and he returned with deep insight and experience that he shared with his students at Reykjavík Technical School. At the school, he taught technical drawing for furniture, interior design and architecture as well as geometric-, surface- and artistic drawing for more than thirty years alongside his productive career as a furniture designer and interior architect. Gunnar thus had a defining influence on generations of carpenters, upholsterers, designers and architects. 

Gunnar’s career of over forty years is represented by diverse projects varying in scale and volume. Among these are: the chessboard for the “duel of the century” when Fischer and Spassky competed in 1972; various interior design projects for ships and airplanes; furniture design for the manufacturing companies Skeifan and Kristján Siggeirsson; and various forms of collaborations with furniture workshops that benefited greatly from his knowledge of construction and manufacturing as well as from his great talent as a designer.

Gunnar always emphasized the creation of atmosphere that was convenient for each space, whether it was a kitchen, a bank, or an educational institution. He designed furniture and interiors for a large number of homes, companies and institutions – for example interior and furniture for Hotel Holt, Iceland’s former Bank of commerce and Iceland’s School of education. Due to the emergence of both new lifestyles and new business styles many of these creations have had to fade away while others still lead a good life in the hands of people who appreciate classic and quality design.

Throughout the years Gunnar has participated in numerous exhibitions and received various international awards. While his work represents the spirit of Nordic design in the latter part of last century, Gunnar’s author characteristics are exquisite and make his work unique as distinct representatives of a prime period in Icelandic furniture design. 

By: Blóð Stúdíó

Photo/Aldís Pálsdóttir

The Icelandic Design Award 2021 was held in Gróska on the 29th of October. Guðrún Sóley Gestsdóttir, media personality, presented the awards and earlier during the day a productive talk was held about a future based on design, creativity and innovation, directed by Hrund Gunnsteinsdóttir, the managing director of Festa - center for sustainability.

The Icelandic Design Award started in 2014 and honours the best Icelandic design and architecture annually. The importance of design in our society, culture and business has been growing steadily, and it is therefore vital to increase the understanding of good design and highlight the value of quality.

The jury of the Icelandic Design Awards 2021
María Kristín Jónsdóttir/Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, chairman of the jury, Museum of Design and Applied Art
Hildigunnur Sverrisdóttir, architect, IUA                                                                                                              
Þorleifur Gíslason, grapich designer, IDA 
Katarina Siltavuori, director of Archinfo Finland.                     
Margrét Kristín Sigurðardóttir, SI                                                              
Ragna Fróðadóttir, fashion and textile designer, and director at Edelkoort Inc.                                     

The Icelandic Design Award is established by Iceland Design and Architecture in collaboration with the Iceland University of the Arts, the Museum of Design and Applied Art, Promote Iceland and SI - the Federation of Icelandic Industries.

October 29th, 2021
Álfrún Pálsdóttir
Aldís Pálsdóttir


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