Kristian Vedel

copenhagen, Denmark

Danish industrial designer Kristian Solmer Vedel is revered for his contribution to Scandinavian midcentury modernism. Greatly influenced by the Bauhaus aesthetic and Kaare Klint’s ergonomic approach, Vedel’s furniture and product designs tinged with a unique “Nordic Cool”aura—a stylish blend of playful, simple functionality with a dynamic use of material (often favoring plastics and more exotic woods like rosewood). 

Born in 1923, Vedel apprenticed as a cabinetmaker before accepting, in 1944, a visiting scholarship under Kaare Klint at Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts—the pedagogical incubator for regional visionaries like Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, and Verner Panton. He completed his education two years later at the Danish Design School—the alma mater of Nanna Ditzel, Poul Kjærholm, Hans J. Wegner, among others. Vedel went on to chair the Danish Furniture Designers society between 1947 and 1949, followed by a lecturing position at the Danish Design School from 1953 to 1956. 

In 1954, he and his first wife Birgit established a design studio in the Copenhagen suburb of Humlebæk, from which Vedel began producing work much in the same utilitarian vein of his earlier mentor Klint. For luxury goods manufacturer Torben Ørksov, Vedel composed his tour de force debut: the Thonet-inspired, plywood Child’s Chair (1957), a simple, expansively versatile piece of furniture whose form could be modified by a variety of planar components. This designed earned a Silver Medal at the 1957 Triennale. 

Vedel continued to design award-winning experimental work for Torben Ørksov into the following decade; his plastic Gourmet Tableware (1958), for example—a 1960 Triennale Gold Medal winner—echoed the accessible functionalism of American modernists like Russel Wright and George Nelson. Today, these dishes are held in several permanent museum collections, including New York's Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as Copenhagen's Museum of Arts & Design. A year later, Vedel briefly detoured from Torben Ørksov to design his amiable Bird series for Architectmade, which remains in production today. In 1963, Søren Willadsen became Vedel’s primary client, for whom he designed his sumptuous Modus range of furniture, which included three types of chairs, a stool, and ten types of tables—all square and crafted of jacaranda (Brazilian rosewood). 

By the mid-1960s, Videl broadened his career focus. He returned to the Industrial Designers of Denmark chairmanship in 1966, before moving to Kenya in 1968 to establish and direct the Department of Industrial Design at the University of Nairobi—a post he left in 1971. In 1972, Vedel established his new base on Denmark’s Thyholm Peninsula, where he remained casually involved in design, devoting most his time to the provincial joys of the landscape: agricultural cultivation, breeding Shropshire sheep, and the like. 

He passed away at the age of eighty in 2003.