Student Writer: Ryan Wakat

Ryan WakatName: Ryan Wakat
Home University: University of Colorado – Boulder
Summer Courses at DIS: Design and Society in Denmark, Furniture Design in Scandinavia

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For the Furniture Design long field study, we went to Sweden and Finland for a week. Our first day, like every day that would come that week, was an early one. We drove over the Øresund bridge into Sweden and headed to our first stop: Ikea! The Ikea campus was amazing, and we got to see the bigger side of furniture and product development. First we saw the prototyping facility, which produces all the Ikea products before sending them into mass production. The shop there was huge and full of every toy a designer, fabricator, or craftsman or woman could ever want. A full wood and metal shop with CNC’s, laser cutters, water jut cutter, presses, pipe benders, vacuum-bag machine, four 3D printers, a textiles and upholstery lab, and a lacquer and paint lab.

Following that, we went to the Ikea TestLab, where they test all there products for design flaws. This can range from opening and closing doors to kids jumping on a bed and even fire and weather tests. Our guide explained that these test can range anywhere from a few hours, to a few days, weeks, and some even last 24 hours a day for up to 6 months. Only after products have passed all these certifications, will they be sent to the Ikea manufacturing facilities.

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Leaving Ikea, we headed for Stockholm, which was about a four hour drive. Most of us caught up on sleep, while others worked on chair designs, after getting inspiration from Ikea. When we arrived in Stockholm, we immediately went to dinner after settling into our hostel. To my surprise, we were served the BEST Swedish meat balls one could ask for! I was absolutely ecstatic.

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We spent two days in Stockholm visiting several museums, the public library, and a cemetery. At each location, there was a new chair for us to sit in and examen. Additionally, we used the Stockholm Metro (subway) system to get everywhere. The stations for the Metro were absolutely amazing. Some stations were as deep as 40 meters (131 feet) underground, and were carved out of solid granite. The stations had amazing artwork covering the ceilings and walls.

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To get to Finland, we got to take a ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. While we were onboard, we continued to come up with ideas, as well as enjoyed the company of our classmates and instructors. The archipelago that we went through to leave Stockholm and get out into the Baltic Sea was gorgeous as well. Hundreds, if not thousands of tiny islands, filled with small boats, towns, and houses.

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Seeing as we were, at this point, 420 kilometers (262 miles) north of Copenhagen, the Sun was up a bit longer then we were used to. We pulled into a port at the Åland Islands around 11pm as the Sun set, but there was enough refracted light all night. It never really got dark out, and the sun rose around 4:30am.

In Helsinki, we visited some more design shops and museums, and visited some famous works in architecture. To end our first day in Finland, we went to a typical Finnish home in the woods, where we feasted on wild cream of mushroom soup, reindeer, mashed potato’s and lingonberries. Following that amazing dinner, we got to sit in a steam sauna, that was right on a lake. All the guys climbed into the sauna, and after about 20 minutes, we all ran out, and jumped in the lake. After repeating that process 3 times, and taking about an hour and a half of our even, we switched with the ladies, and went to go talk to our host, Pekka. He explained to us the importance of being environmentally responsible, and making sure that when we design something, that it will last a lifetime.

Our last day in Finland was spent visiting the Eliel Saarinen home, examining the Finnish Romanticism style, and more chairs. I also got to jump in the lake behind the home, which was an awesome treat. We also visited the Paimio Sanatorium, which treated those who had tuberculosis from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. There, we discussed how the patients would spend hours outside and how the chairs they would sit in, were designed for extra comfort and relaxation. At that time, it was believed that fresh air for hours a day, even in the winter, was the best way to cure tuberculosis.

Finally, we boarded our last ferry back to Sweden, where we spent one more night, and visited a few more furniture design workshops. On this ferry, we met up with the students in the DIS Architecture studio and we all ate dinner and spent the night together.

This week long trip also happened to fall on the Fourth of July holiday. Our last night in Sweden, and on our trip, we had an amazing barbecue with the other group of furniture design students. We had hotdogs, potato salad, fruit, and s’mores for dinner. Following that, we played an epic football game (soccer) beside a lake, which we occasionally jumped in, when we scored a goal, or if the ball happen to land in it.

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Overall, the study tour was a great trip and I learned and saw a lot. The trip allowed for our group to get closer and gain a tighter studio bond. All of us are eager to get to work on our chairs and start building them. The whole trip was about 2400km (1500 miles). While session 2 students have departed DIS, the Architecture and Design students are still hard at work. There are 4 weeks left in our term, and they will be the busiest ones yet.

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