There are many museums in the centre of Reykjavik, so I am not sure how many tourists would venture out of the city to The Museum of Design and Applied Art located 6 km away from the centre. I managed to board onto the correct bus (number 1 from the City Hall bus stop), but it took me a while to find my way to the museum from the suburban bus stop because of lack of signage.
Despite its odd location, the museum is worth a visit for all design enthusiasts. As the only design museum in Iceland, its objective is to collect, study and Icelandic design and craft from 1900 to the present day. The Museum holds 4-6 exhibitions of Icelandic and international design per year. The museum’s collection comprises around 1500 objects such as furniture, product design, lighting, pottery, glass and fashion design. It is a fantastic venue to learn more about Icelandic design and its progress in the last several decades.
As expected, the style and aesthetics of Icelandic design is akin to Scandinavian design due to the Danish influence. The forms and aesthetics are simple, nature-driven, and undisputedly functional.
Although the museum is not huge, it is easy to spend over an hour here especially if you are keen to read about the stories behind the designs. Yet the highlight for me was the ‘Iceland is so ceramic’ exhibition – a retrospective of Icelandic ceramicist Steinunn Marteinsdóttir‘s works.
Steinunn Marteinsdóttir’s ceramic arts exhibition
Steinunn Marteinsdóttir‘s impressive works are inspired by the beautiful Icelandic landscape, and these elements are palpable in her vases, wall plaques, tea cups and saucers set etc. Her vast body of work bears witness to her indefatigable exploration of techniques and limits, in both material as well as formal language and decoration. It is remarkable how her styles and techniques have evolved over the years, yet the theme of nature has been consistent throughout.
The museum’s shop
Last but not least, the museum also has a shop that sells contemporary Icelandic designs and crafts. Prices are quite steep (it is Iceland after all), but if you are looking for high quality and one of a kind design objects, you will not be disappointed.
Address: Garðatorg 1, Garðabær, Iceland. (Tip: remember to print out a map before you go, otherwise, you are likely to be lost in the suburbs if you don’t have internet connection on your smartphone).