Generation Next

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The work of Kasper Salto, one of Denmark’s leading designers, combines elegance and precision with a simple approach and a love of technology. Here Oryx talks to Salto about the process, the pressure, and the products.

Do you have a definitive approach to starting every project?
It starts with what design should do: serve people well in their everyday lives. It’s as simple as taking something and making it better. Another driving force is to find a gap in the jungle of goods. We designers have to think carefully before throwing more stuff into the market.

What does it mean to be a Danish designer today?
Is there pressure on you and your peers to be ‘successors’ to the classic designers?

Republic of Fritz Hansen, which produces my Ice chair and Little Friend table, and the new chair launching in April at the Milan International Furniture Fair, also represent some of the icons of the ‘golden age’. It can feel like a big stone to carry because of that history, but really I feel very fortunate. After all, they bring attention to the company, especially from outside little Denmark.

Of the great Danish designers of the past, whose work and design principles do you most admire?
I keep in mind three main figures in the Danish furniture tradition: Arne Jacobsen, for his big, conceptual thinking; Poul Kj?rholm, for his surgical-sharp approach to detail; and Hans J. Wegner, for his superior craftsmanship and humanistic view of design.

And of your contemporaries, whose work do you keep an eye on?
Cecilie Manz. She’s doing very well and I like her minimalistic approach because it comes from deep inside.

If you could buy any three products, what would they be?
If money were no object, I would buy a piece by Peder Moos, a little-known cabinetmaker who lived in his workshop and gave commissioning customers three terms and conditions: “I can’t tell you what it will look like when it’s finished; I can’t tell you when it will be finished; and I can’t tell you what it will cost until it is finished.” A rare personality, who used no nails or metal, so each piece was totally unique. For functionality, I would choose Nosy, the lamp I designed with Thomas Sigsgaard. It adapts to its environment and can turn through 300? on its axis. And based on looks alone, I would buy one of the new Arne Jacobsen watches for Rosendahl. I like the one called ‘Banker’s’ – it has a red dot in the centre and a curved face like a lens. Very smart!

The New York Times named Copenhagen one of the top five cities to visit this year. What do you think is the city’s winning formula?
It is always nice when others appreciate our culture and lifestyle. I think part of Copenhagen’s special feeling is thanks to the law that buildings in the centre cannot be more than five floors high. There’s a certain light in the city because the sun can reach down the streets. We don’t have dark corners. The winning formula, though, is down to one thing: quality. Everything in Copenhagen has a certain quality, from the architecture and design to a little cup of coffee in a corner cafe.

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