What’s in Store For Iceland’s DesignMarch Festival

International participants and observers have praised the festival for its laid-back and accessible nature.

Iceland DesignMarch festival 2018
Porcelain tableware from the Loki collection, by North Limited, which will show products at MUN. Courtesy North Limited

Taking over the world’s northernmost capital, Reykjavík, from March 15 to 18, Iceland’s annual DesignMarch festival will include some 100 exhibits and events spanning all branches of design and architecture—from urban interventions to furniture to textiles.

In the past, international participants and observers have praised the festival for its laid-back and accessible nature, as well as its lack of an application fee. “It’s for professionals but also for the public,” says festival manager Sara Jónsdóttir. “There’s very little hierarchy.”

Given the country’s harsh and barren landscape, Icelandic designers must be ingenious at finding ways to harness local resources. Skógarnytjar, a project by product designer Björn Steinar, will bring together prominent Icelandic designers and foresters to explore ways of working with one of Iceland’s newest resources: wood. (Until two decades ago, Iceland had been largely treeless since its Viking settlement.) “The aim is to get more people interested in finding ways to use our new resource with a cooperative design method,” says Steinar.

Fostering collaboration and opportunity are key pillars of the Icelandic festival. “We live on an island, so we are always looking for ways to make connections between international and local designers,” Jónsdóttir says. Designer and participant Hanna Dís Whitehead calls the event a “harvest season” for the local design scene, with events blossoming throughout the city center. Among the debuts this year is the studio-cum-boutique MUN, which unites four design teams premiering new products at the festival.

An opening seminar, DesignTalks, will be co-moderated by Paul Bennett of IDEO and will feature leading international creatives. “We are looking at the future through the eyes of the next generation of designers,” says Jónsdóttir. “We are always looking at how design can change society, how it can have an impact on politics, welfare, and social structures.”

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