Drew P A Smith

The Gothenburg Aesthetic

The millennial aesthetic or Gothenburg’s: which came first?

When you’re in the city, hunkered down on Sweden’s west coast, it’s hard to know, so deeply entrenched is the former in the latter.

Muted surfaces – open-pored wood, concrete, terrazzo, and tile – form the base on which the occasional pop of colour is permitted to play.

Everywhere you look you find seal, caramel, musk, moss and periwinkle. Polished brass casts a warm glow and luxuriantly-piled rugs and sheepskin soften that which might be too hard.

Overhead lighting, if it’s present at all, is kept to a minimum and candles – so many candles – erase any threat of gloom.

The irrationality of ornament is eschewed. Fun? No thanks. At least, not too much. Even the kids toys are respectful of the quiet. Everything is tasteful, restrained, elemental, the millennial aesthetic on city scale.

The latests looks jar in this city. Clothing items, now garish in their colour and graphic and form, scream from the windows that stock them. They have you looking for the volume knob, so that you might attenuate the noise they impose on the street.

Gothenburg gave us an automotive paint inspired by the inside of a muscle shell. It sits on the edge of an archipelago that’s captured in the backlit trim of a small SUV. It’s a city that’s inspired by the softness of its landscape, as much as it is by the harshness of its autumn and winter weather.

It’s also a city that’s careful about who it lets in, and guarded about what it lets out. It’s lagom1 – that Swedish concept of not too little, not too much – in bricks, mortar and mentality. Which is probably why, in Gothenburg at least, the millennial aesthetic endures.

  1. From Wikipedia: The word can be variously translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, “just enough”, “ideal” and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). Whereas words like sufficient and average suggest some degree of abstinence, scarcity, or failure, lagom carries the connotation of appropriateness, although not necessarily perfection. The archetypical Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst”, literally “The right amount is best”, is also translated as “Enough is as good as a feast”, or as “There is virtue in moderation”. ↩︎