Published in DASH #09 - Housing Exhibitions
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At the Limits of Architecture

The Housing Section of the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition

In 1930, the Stockholm Exhibition took place in Sweden. In addition to utensils and applied arts, the exposition included complete dwellings. Attracting 4 million visitors in five months, it is widely considered a breakthrough for functionalism in Swedish architecture and design. The exhibition was initiated by Svenska Slöjdföreningen or the Swedish Arts and Crafts Society. The leader of this designer’s association, Gregor Paulsson, was partly inspired by his 1927 visit to the Weissenhof Siedlungen. The exhibition pavilions, in most cases designed by Gunnar Asplund, radiated hope and optimism, despite the fact that Sweden was facing high unemployment and poor living conditions at the time. In 1931, some of the architects involved in the Housing Section published their controversial manifesto acceptera propagating functionalism as the inevitable solution to the problems of the times. In the following article, Lucy Creagh takes a closer look at their exhibition contributions. – The Editors

In a lecture delivered to the assembled membership of the Svenska Slöjdföreningen on 25 October 1928, Gregor Paulsson identified four key points of difference for the society’s upcoming 1930 Stockholm Exhibition of Industrial Arts, Applied Arts, and Home Crafts. Unlike the great expositions of the nineteenth century, which were simply ‘representative’ of commerce and culture, the Stockholm Exhibition would have a defined socio-economic programme, pushing production and consumption in a specific direction. With the goal of improving the quality and affordability of everyday items of use, for 1930 the Society would broker collaborations between designers and manufacturers with the purpose of developing new models for mass production. Secondly, in a response to the new needs and capabilities of the age, the scope of the exhibition would be extended, moving beyond the limited repertoire of household objects and furnishings that had characterized previous events, such as the Stockholm Exhibition of 1909, to tackle nothing less than the total environment of useful objects, from gramophones to traffic lights.1

As well as this expanded field of exhibits, a third distinction would be the way these objects were displayed. From the haphazard curatorial methods and physical arrangements of the purely representative expositions, and a recent tendency to a ‘museum-like formality’ in applied arts exhibitions, for 1930 the exhibits would be arranged in a more straightforward manner, akin to the ‘the conditions that prevail in ordinary commerce’.2 Juxtaposed with the exhibits organized according to manufacturer would be a series of ‘collective’ displays, each focusing on functional designs for a specific household essential, including chairs, glasses, cutlery and dinner services.3 While some of these goods would already be in production, others would be designed and manufactured especially for the exhibition, but all would be chosen because they fell below a maximum threshold in terms of cost. The final, and perhaps most important distinction for 1930 would be that the home – the point of reference from which Paulsson in this lecture related all objects as being either ‘within’ or ‘outside of’ – would take on a real dimension in 1930.4 The dwelling would no longer be a mocked-up representation inside an exhibition hall, but a fully-scaled, fully-furnished model home, through which the functional, social and economic aspects of housing could be investigated with a degree of specificity hitherto unattempted in Sweden…


  • Gregor Paulsson, ‘Stockholmsutställningens program: Föredrag i Svenska Slöjdföreningen den 25 oktober 1928’, in: Kritik och program: ett urval uppsatser, tidningsartiklar och föredrag (Stockholm: Gebers, 1949), 104-107.
  • Ibid., 107.
  • Ibid.
  • Paulsson argued the following in this lecture: ‘It is therefore a logical consequence of the changed concept of industrial art that while household objects were the overwhelmingly most important group at the Stockholm Exhibition of 1909, the 1930 exhibition will comprise three major groups as three equivalent areas of the environment modern people live in: the first group, architecture, primarily housing design as the fixed frame; transportation, street and garden furnishings, the frame for life outside the home as the second group; and finally household items as the third group, the loose objects with which we form our homes.’ Ibid., 106-107.