Just my cup of (Swedish) tea

Vintage black and white photograph of Swedish Konsum co-op

I was trundling around Stockholm’s Architecture Museum the other weekend, admiring their selection of architectural models. I was especially taken by a Swedish Konsum (co op) shop from the 1930s. Great design, great typeface.

A bit further round the small museum I found a book to love too: Kooperativa Forbundets Arkitektkontor 1935 – 1949, produced by the Swedish Cooperative Union and Wholesale Society’s Architect’s Office. It details the interiors and exteriors of the various cooperative buildings of the period – shops, cafes, restaurants.

And who knew?! Fabulous examples of functional pared-down design intended to improve the lot of the everyday worker. The nicely propped photographs in the book, in black and white and colour, have a couple of strategically good-looking workers in each. And they surprise with the weight given over to the visual in them, the importance of the aesthetic. That has been singularly lacking from most histories of cooperatives, especially the British movement.

The cafe interior here is particularly tasty example. It contains basic elements but they are presented with refreshing finesse and detail: smart lights, the continuation of the same tongue and groove and strong lines throughout and robust yet elegant furniture. Unapologetic minimalism for the masses.

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