Most travelers dread spending hours waiting in air terminals. The seats are uncomfortable, the food’s mediocre and there’s nothing worth buying in the duty-free shops. But everyone loves the new, temporary passenger lounge in Roppongi. It’s a destination in itself.
After checking in or touching down, visitors have a hard time deciding where among the many inviting places to sit first — on the marshmallow white sofa or in a low-slung yellow chair with a sledlike base? Both allow you to recline just enough to gaze at the entrancing cloud-shape lights which inflate and deflate overhead. Underfoot, a cordless vacuum-cleaning robot — a shiny maroon lozenge — scurries around tidying up.
OK, there aren’t any regular flights in or out of Roppongi. “A Trip to Sweden” is an air terminal-themed interior design exhibition in the lobby of the Swedish Embassy. It serves as cafe, information hub and nerve center for Swedish Style, the third annual expo of Swedish design, fashion, food, music and art. According to the Swedish Trade Council, the country’s creative industries account for almost 10 percent of its GNP. Through next Tuesday, they show Tokyo why and how.
More than 40 creators have come from Sweden, bringing their wares and ideas to 35 events at 20 locations. The embassy is taking a slightly less active role this year. (Swedish Style initiator Ewa Kumlin and her husband, the ambassador, are preparing to leave Japan). But it’s still a great venue for conferences, parties and, of course, kicking back.
“A Trip to Sweden” curator-designers Monica Forster and Nina Jobs have created a cool, casual showroom of comfortable contemporary Swedish design. Expanses of light colors — beige-colored wood, white and yellow fabric — dominate. With a couple of blue four-legged stools, the color scheme approximates the Swedish flag. But this is no IKEA.
Huge black silhouettes of chairs and sofas rake across the white walls like misplaced shadows. The puffing cloud lamps hanging from the ceiling dim and brighten with a turn of the rheostat. Eight factories contributed the sleek, attractive furniture. And many, like the trapezoidal plywood coffee table from Claesson Koivisto Rune, won design awards at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February.
Lounge is the recurring theme here. Those who like to take their relaxation lying down slip into the inflated “Cloud” meditation room, installed on the back porch. Like the cloud lights inside, this fluffy cocoon was also produced by design collective Snowcrash. Layers of silky fabric puffed with air billow softly with the fading summer breeze. At least one emerging visitor described the experience as “therapeutic.”
Lounge applies to the music, too. Different DJs and live acts swing through a “A Trip to Sweden” every day, playing metal and pop and featuring chanteuses. To bring the vibe home, visitors can pick up “Nordic Lounge,” a new CD released in conjunction with Swedish Style. It captures some of the hip young things coming out of the north, in what Swedish Style project manager Kenneth Hagas describes as “electronic lounge” — light and melancholic, with its roots in Swedish folk music.
If all the lying around makes you peckish, shelves stock salty black licorice, raspberry bonbons and other candies. For something more substantial, the cafe serves specialties such as smoked salmon, Swedish-style hot dogs, potato soup and Absolut vodka throughout the day. A cart carrying a range of Skruf clear-glass bowls and white teacups bears the sign “Fly Free Design Shop.”
That’s to remind you that not only the candies and CDs, but everything here — the furniture, lights, glassware — is for sale. This commercial side of the exhibition is, thankfully, understated. No logos mar the walls, and there’s only essential promotional material. Products such as the furniture or Electrolux Trilobite robot vacuum advertise themselves through function.
Whatever the final destination of visitors’ Swedish Style flights of fancy, the trip will be — as the event’s official motto promises — “fun, informal, friendly.”
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