About a year ago, we wrote about a peculiar problem of national identity. It turns out, despite the clean and minimal architecture and gleaming health care services, some Scandinavians detect a weakness in their political and cultural identity. So Oslo-based design group Permafrost tackled the issue by crafting a set of wooden kids’ toys that visually extoll the impressiveness of the Norwegian industrial economy. The minimal birch pieces, with characteristic red details, debuted last year at the London Design Festival's 100% Norway exhibit.
Now, Permafrost is expanding the miniature line of helicopters and shipping barges to include more water-based monuments: white hills and houses in the Archipelago set and a Shipping collection of navy blue boats, ships, and a submarine.
"The toys point to the conflict between our celebrated nature and our advanced industrial achievements," says Permafrost partner Tore Vinje Brustad. "Scandinavians value both, so this contrast is causing quite a bit of mixed feelings and guilty consciences in people."
It’s a heavy burden to place on tinker toys the size of Lego or Hot Wheels—but that’s the intention. "The objects have no other function than allowing fun, play, and games," Brustad tells Co.Design. The fact that kids' playthings are harmless and trivial is a boon to the project. Billboards, clothing, and appliances have other built-in utility that can muddy the message. "Basically toys are meant for telling and creating stories," Brustad says. "Any other mundane function would only reduce their storytelling potential." And if that doesn’t pan out, they’re still damn cute.
The Offshore, Archipelago, and Shipping toys are now available for purchase. Contact Permafrost for more details.