Model Housing Stockholm 1930

The Stockholm Exhibition of 1930: Model housing and furnishing (part 2)

While some  the organizing architects of the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930 designed several of the model houses, row houses and apartments–namely Sven Markelius, Eskil Sundahl and Uno Åhren, other architects did as well: among them, Carl Bergsten, Kurt von Schmalensee, Carl Hörvik, Hakon Ahlberg, Sven Wallander, Gustaf Clason and Erik Freiberger. The architects also drew on the work of contemporary furniture and textile designers, a number of whom, like Axel Larsson already had connections with manufacturers.

In the lead-up to the Stockhom 1930 exhibition, when the organizers made known their polemical modernist intentions to those invited to work with them, there was resistance from other designers, who felt that this direction was too coercive. Swedish designers planning to show at the fair, but registering a protest against its fundamental functionalist point of view, became labeled by the press as the “Tradis” (traditionalists), and the primary organizers of the fair and their sympathizers, the “Funkis” (functionalists).

Elsa Gullberg, whom we have looked at in previous posts was in an awkward position, having been aligned for the past ten to fifteen years with those looking to the German modernist model and supporting the development of industrially-made everyday goods. And her own textile designs expressed an essentially modernist attitude in which ornamentation grows out of technique and materials, and is not something superficial. But Gullberg also recognized that her own work was based squarely on Swedish textile traditions, and that industrial production could still not meet the level of quality she sought in her own textile work and unwilling to deny that, she found herself in the “Tradis” camp.

Also among those the Tradis camp were Carl Malmsten, the chief voice of opposition, the architects Carl Bergsten, and Ivor Tengbom; furniture designers Axel Larsson, David Blomberg and Anders Lundberg; and several textile designers, including Alfred Munthe, and Märta Måås Fjetterström. The world of Swedish architects and designers was small, and some of the differences of opinion about this fair rankled for a number of years. A few years after the fair, Malmsten essentially ousted Gregor Paulsson from his role as head of the Swedish Society of Arts and Crafts, and steered it in a more conservative direction. Gullberg however, seemed to have both held her ground but also continued to work successfully with Asplund, and with other architects, and continued to work with Paulsson on the design publication, FORM.

The architect Uno Åhren, charged with determining the design parameters for the types of model housing, was able to compel those architects who wanted to be represented at the Exhibition , to adhere to the modernist direction of the exhibition’s organizers.
Some architects who did not want to reflect this direction, but who still wanted to be represented, seem to have found other venues for their work. The architect and furniture designer Carl Malmsten, for example, showed his own work in a much more traditional setting, surrounded by wall hangings and rugs by Märta Måås Fjetterström, a traditionally styled fireplace, a traditional standing clock, and upholstered chairs in the Svensk Hemslöjd Pavillion.

The names of the architects of the various dwellings are recorded in contemporary photographs of these buildings and display rooms. Contemporary documentation, one of the publications detailing the suppliers of materials for the housing, shows the names of some designers or sources of the furniture and textiles used in the model dwellings. But attributions are uneven: some architects seem to have provided detailed material for this catalog, others not so much. Most of the model housing used some form of decorative Swedish rug or carpet as area rugs on bare floors. At this point, the textile artists who designed rugs shown in the housing section of the exhibition are largely anonymous, although the names of a number of weaving houses or ateliers were sometimes provided. See Sources below for a list of these.

From the contemporary catalog, I have identified two artists  who designed rugs.  One is Maja Nordström; the other is Ingegärd Torhamn, a designer who drew heavily on cubist painting in her carpet designs. As such, her rugs are identifiable in photographs of the model housing. She furnished pile rugs for rooms designed by architect Sven Markelius–rooms judged at the time to be some of the most “advanced.” Markelius, however, was among the architects who provided very little information on furniture and rugs; Torhamn is never listed in his entries, though she was listed, presumably as a supplier for the department store Nordiska Kompaniet, where they are credited with interior design services for architect Gustaf Clason’s design for Apartment 5 (Lägenhet 5). That entry even lists the size and price of her rug at 183 x 111 cm and a price of 750SEK. Nordström may also have worked in conjunction with NK, since again, they are credited with interior design where her name is given as the designer of rugs.

One note: woven pile rugs are called “flossa” in Swedish, and this is how Torhamn’s rugs are described both at the time and later, in the Hans Raber 1937 book on Swedish interior design. Although in her book on Art Deco carpets, Susan Day says that Torhamn rugs were hand hooked—that is, made by pulling loops of wool through a backing–and not woven, she is probably incorrect.  The fringe of the rug, essentially the warp of the loom, is visible in a number of these rugs. It is possible though unlikely that others to her design (those which show no fringe) were hooked, but this should be confirmed.

Sven Markelius, architect. Living room in Single Family house #49, with Ingegerd Torhamn rug.ARKM.1985-109-318; photographer unknown.
Sven Markelius, architect. Living room in model rental apartment #7 in Hall 36 with Ingregard Torhamn pile rug. ARKM. 1985-109-279; Karl Alfred Schultz, photographer.

For an exhibition which had as an objective the promotion of well-designed machine-made products, there was not much in the way of furniture or carpets that met these criteria. The furniture shown was largely lightweight, and multipurpose. Bent metal chairs and daybed sofas were ubiquitous. The model dwellings at the Exhibition successfully illustrated modernism as a style, but less convincingly communicated what machine-made furnishings would actually look and feel like. In the carpet area there seem to have been only a few industrially produced products on display. Susan Day says that  Kasthalls Mattfabrik produced power-loomed carpets from designs by both Märta Gahn and Greta Gahn. If so, these were the rugs for Apartment 9, by architect David Dahl, since these are the only rugs shown by that company in the model dwellings. Greta Gahn is also credited with designing upholstery textiles for Framnäs Väveri  in Kinna. A pile carpet shown in what was called the “Ava-flossa” technique,  woven part by machine and part by hand, was also invented by Karna Asker, a weaver/designer for Axevalla -Konstslöjd. According to the contemporary catalog, these seem to have been woven by AB Ferd. Lundvist & Co, Göteborg  (Gothenburg) and used in Apartment 1, designed by Erk Friberger, a Gothenburg architect.

The National Museum, which had a budget for purchases from the Exhibition, seems to have been uninterested in the industrial products and not particularly partial to textiles at this point. While they bought heavily in glass, ceramics and bookbinding after the Exhibition, only 5 textiles from the Exhibition were acquired, and all of these were handwoven. Their purchases included an example of upholstery fabric, and a set of pillows, by Märta Gahn; two draperies or tapestries, one also by Märta Gahn, and the other, an tapestry of Odysseus’ wanderings designed, woven and embroidered by Märta Afzelius who worked with Elsa Gullberg; and the rya rug by MMF called “Sheep” (Fåren) which I looked at in my blog post of August 3, 2016. Ingegerd Torhamn’s work was admired at the time, and while handmade, was certainly more modernist than what the Museum acquired. In the 1960’s, the Museum rectified its oversight, acquiring three of Torhamn’s small carpets (flossa) which were shown at the 1930 Exhibition.

The following are images of these modern villas, and the furniture and rugs that furnished them:

Carl Hörvik, architect. Living room in Single Family House #40, Stockholm Exhibition 1930, with flat weave rölakan rug. ARKM.1985-109-296, Karl Alfred Schultz, photographer .
Sven Wallander, architect. Living room in model apartment #5 in Hall 35, with flat weave rölakan rug. ARKM.1985-109-268; photographer unknown.
Sven Wallander, architect. Living room with desk in model apartment #1 in Hall 35 with pile rug. ARKM.1985-109-265; photographer unknown.
Kurt von Schmalensee, architect. Living room in model rental apartment #6, rug designed and woven at Johanna Brunssons weaving school;  ARKM.1985-109-277; photographer unknown.

A number of  the houses and rooms were decorated by the department store, Nordiska Kompaniet. The architect and versatile furniture designer Axel Einar Hjorth, who as the chief architect for the Stockholm department store, Nordiska Kompaniet, had during his time at HK created several furniture lines both of elegant polished pieces and furniture for rural sports cabins which drew on primitive and rustic traditions. At the Exhibition he designed several rooms in the model dwellings where his elegant side was more in evidence.

Axel Einer Hjorth, inteiors in Villa 42 designed by architect, Carl Bergsten . Dining room with furniture in precious woods, and large flat weave rolakan rug on floor. NMA.0031302; Erik Holmen, photographer.

And architect Sven Markelius seems to have designed for Nordiska Kompaniet as well, straying from the design of model dwellings, to that of a modern hospital day room, and even for this room, finding a way to introduce a handsome Ingegerd Torhamn rug.

Sven Markelius, architect. Dayroom in a hospital. decorated in red, black and gold.  Rug  by Ingegerd Torhamn. Part of  Nordiska Kompaniet display. NMA.00032637. Erik Holmen, photographer.

Another significant part of the fair was the display of various contemporary products, grouped by material in large halls. Among these were a hall for both metal goods and musical instruments, another for ceramics, and yet another for book design, bookbinding and graphic design. The next post will look at the Textile Hall and its contents, which included rugs on display from a wide range of Swedish sources.

Creagh, Lucy, Helena Kåberg, and Barbara Miller Lane. Modern Swedish Design -Three Founding Texts, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008.

Dahlbäck Lutteman, Helena and Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark, Arthur Hald, Barbro Hovstadius and Eva Hallström-Goliger, Elsa Gullberg, Textil pionjär, Stockholm: Nationalmusei katalog nr 523, 1989.

Day, Susan, Art Deco and Modernist Carpets, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2002.

Digitaltmuseum –images of architecture of the Exhibition. Featured image is of the exterior of a single family home by architect Hakon Alberg, architect. Single family house,type 10, Villa 48. ARKM. 1990-106-144; Gustave W Cronqist, photographer.

Katalogs över Bostadsavdelningen, Stockholms Utställningen 1930.       Textile firms and individuals whose work is credited in this catalog are as follows: Axevalla Folkhögskola; Böras Väveri; Johanna Brunssons Vävskola; Frammäs Väveri AB; Greta Gahn; Elsa Gullberg; Handarbetets Vänner; Kasthalls Mattfabrik; Hyresgästernas Möbelaffar; Maja Nordström; Svenskt Tenn Firma; Ingegärd Torhamn; Wäveriet för hemintedningen AB. Unfortunately it is difficult to tell in all cases whether these firms provided rugs and carpets or other upholstery or drapery materials.

National Museum, STOCKHOLMSUTSTALLNINGEN 1930 av konstindustri, konsthantverk och hemslojd. Ett apropâ, maj- -augusti 1980. A brief un-illustrated catalog of items acquired from the Stockholm 1930 Exhibition.

Ostergard, Derek E. and Nina Stritzler-Levine, eds., The Brilliance of Swedish Glass, 1918-1939, An Alliance of Art and Industry. Yale University Press for The Bard Graduate Center, New York, 1996.

Raber, Hans, Det Modrna Hemmet Inredingskonst i Sverige och Andra Länder. Bokförlaget Matur och Kultur, Stockholm, 1937.

Widman, Dag, Karin Winter, and Nina Stritzler Levine, Bruno Mathsson, Architect and Designer. Bokförlaget Arena, Malmö and Stockholm  in association with the Bard Graduate Center, New York and Yale University Press, New Haven and New York, undated.

Wollin, Nils. Modern Swedish Arts and Crafts in Pictures. Charles Scribners and Sons, New York, 1931.

Please reference as follows:

Whidden, Anne, “Model Housing Stockholm 1930” theswedishrugblog (9/14/16);; accessed (day/month/year)


2 thoughts

  1. Thanks. I apologize to any of you readers who received a confusing earlier post which was an incomplete version of this one. I tried to take it down quickly,but think a number of people saw that one first.


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