Nordic Design Diplomacy: Exploring the Power of Design

An interview with Eva Jensen and Kyle Bergman.

From left to right: Consul General of Denmark in New York, Ambassador Berit Basse; Kyle Bergman; Eva Christine Jensen. Photo: Sofie Dalhoff Saabye

n May 13–18 2021, as part of NYCxDesign’s Design Days, Nordic Design Diplomacy in New York will open virtual doors to the prestigious Nordic consular residences in a series of engaging talks featuring professionals from the fields of architecture and design inspired by different cultural contexts, in the Nordic region and US.

Consul General of Denmark in New York, Ambassador Berit Basse, invited Eva Christine Jensen, Founder and Principal of Eva Jensen Design, along with Kyle Bergman, Founder of Architecture & Design Film Festival to be part of the Denmark salon, which is programmed to air on at noon on May 16.

Born and raised in Denmark, Eva Jensen offers elegant aesthetics, a secure vision, and a comprehensive hands-on approach to architecture and design. Following an extensive international career, Eva founded her own architecture and design studio in New York in 2005. Her designs give shape to spaces and objects that are motivated by function, and infused with poetry, connecting people with culture and nature.

An entrepreneur at heart, US architect Kyle Bergman founded the Architecture & Design Film Festival in 2008 and has since then served as its Festival Director. Bergman also serves as Vice President on the Board of the Pacific Rim Parks Organization, whose mission is to use the process of designing and building parks as a tool to connect communities around the Pacific.

Ahead of the NYCxDesign’s Design Days, Denmark in New York sat down with the two acclaimed architects to talk about the role of architecture and design in Denmark and USA, the biggest challenges that design and architecture may solve, whom they create for and what they are currently working on.

Denmark In New York: What is the role of architecture and design in your home country?

Eva Christine Jensen. Photo: Sofie Dalhoff Saabye

Eva Jensen: The role of architecture and design in Denmark is to improve life for mankind, make a positive impact, and bring joy and delight to the experience of living.

This may be quite universal, and there are of course different ways to express this objective, at different times, and in different cultures. In the Nordic countries we have tradition for a holistic approach and a strong foundation in the humanities.

Danish design is known for its simplicity, and it is often defined as timeless design. Architecture and design have had an important role in the development of Danish culture especially in the 20th century, which was a golden age that, together with fine craftsmanship, infused our lifestyle and values with a deep-seated appreciation for design. It increased our awareness of the positive impact and benefits design can contribute. In the post-war era 1950’s and 60’s, Danish architecture and furniture design were very sought after. The Danes embraced contemporary design, and family furniture pieces like Wegner, Mogensen, Jacobsen, Juhl, Koch, Klint and Kjærholm have become collectable heirlooms — “sustainable” pieces that can last through generations, and are now even more sought after internationally.

Building on our strong tradition, the Danes today are creating beautiful and innovative design and architecture. Now more fully sustainable, integrated design systems are being built. This is also reflected in the energy sector with Denmark leading in off-shore wind solutions in search of a circular economy.

Kyle Bergman: The opportunities for architects and designers are universal; they don’t break down into political boundaries. We all want to envision the future and then try to make that vision a reality. The language of architecture and design is also universal. I clearly see this in our Pacific Rim Park projects, where we bring an international team of students together that can’t always communicate because we speak different languages. However, when we begin designing as a group, we move from speaking to drawing to modeling; that’s when we’re speaking a common language.

What do you consider the biggest challenge that architecture and design need or can contribute to solve?

Eva Jensen: The biggest challenge of our current time, the digital era, is for humans to re-learn and develop new ways to coexist with nature in a sustainable manner.

Architecture and design, as an artform informed by science and technology, can contribute greatly to this challenge. In fact, as with all challenges there is an inherent opportunity. Architects and designers shape the build environment and the objects we surround ourselves with. This can be a defining time for the architecture and design field to take the lead through the “Power of Design” and make a positive impact. In our lifestyle, infrastructure, energy systems, cities and countryside more profoundly, while being mindful of “rewilding”.

Kyle Bergman: In my opinion, we all need to do our part in helping to slow down climate change. We can do that in many ways, but I think it is important to consider the environmental impact of all our decisions as we design and plan for the future.

Kyle Bergman. Photo: Sofie Dalhoff Saabye

Who do you create for?

Kyle Bergman: It is a balance of creating something that works for the end users and the clients, while also making it personally satisfying and meaningful. Architecture is not idiosyncratic like art; for it to be successful, it has to succeed on many levels.

Eva Jensen: I create for the vision. I create for my clients. I create for innovation. I create for positive impact. I create for my core values and high standards. I create for bringing joy and delight to the experience of life. I create for people, connecting with culture and nature through design.

What are you currently working on?

Eva Jensen: We had the honor of receiving an international award for furniture design, just last week, for our innovative portable canopy system, Circle Shade, and are exploring taking this to market.

With a New York City based design practice, and a niche in high-end residential architecture, we continue to work in this field, and are pursuing projects that reflect client lifestyles post-Covid.

Having worked in the Hamptons, the East End of Long Island, we are currently working on a sustainable property development that seeks to be carbon neutral and promote a farm-to-table lifestyle.

Kyle Bergman: Currently, I am working on two projects that help to expand the conversation about what we do as architects so a wider audience can understand the value and opportunity that good design offers.

The first is Pacific Rim Park, which is a 25-year-old effort where an international team of architecture students comes together to design and build a park in one month. These are all public parks right on the Pacific, and through these shared art-making experiences, the students transcend language barriers to create spaces that ask the question: “What does it mean to be a member of the Pacific?” In the process, we are looking to highlight elements in the park design that both unite us while at the same time honoring and celebrating our differences.

The second is the Architecture & Design Film Festival, which is a series of public film screenings from around the world that have both a design and a human-interest story. The festival’s goal is to bring together an audience of both design professionals and non-professionals and encourage a dialogue about how design can make the world a better place. My interest is in bringing together people who do not always have the opportunity to talk to each other and both of these projects use architecture and design as a way of bridging cultures through human connections.

Join Denmark in New York, NYCxDesign’s Design Days and Helsinki Design Week on May 16, 12:00PM EST to watch the Denmark Salon.

This event is free and open to the public.

Katrine Nørholm Jensen is the Strategic Communications and Press intern at Denmark In New York.

Sofie Dalhoff Saabye is the Culture and Public Diplomacy intern at Denmark In New York

The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.