The five nations of Scandinavia want to “build a new brand identity for the five countries that make up the Nordic region.” This is nuts. This is stupid. I am a quarter Norwegian so I can say this. I have been reading articles about bad ideas for years, mostly in the realm of architecture (where bad ideas are almost mandatory) and this is the most idiotic that I have read so far.
Scandinavia does not need a new identity.
And as if to demonstrate the region’s fecklessness, it is putting part of the project into the hands of a screwy modernist architecture firm called BIG.
“BIG to rebrand Nordic region,” by Eleanor Gibson in Dezeen, is difficult to believe. BIG, a design firm founded by Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels (“Bjarking Mad Ingels” in the opinion of some), is part of a plot to scam Scandinavia. BIG and several other firms are conspiring to persuade the leaders of the five nations – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland – that in order to thrive they need “a new collective identity.” Gibson writes that “the Branding and Positioning of the Nordic Region initiative intends to differentiate the region from the rest of the world and leverage its potential.”
This is ridiculous. Patently absurd. Scandinavia has perhaps the most cohesive identity of any region in the world. Healthy social democracies with a strong sense of design; a region of personal warmth enforced by a climate of cold. It is a strong identity because it has continued basically unchanged for centuries. BIG will not sharpen but blunt the image of Scandinavia around the world – if it has any impact at all, which is the most likely result. Except that a gang of pranksters will have defrauded the good taxpayers of the five nations.
Just look at the photo accompanying the Dezeen article. It shows Bjarke Ingels standing in front of his Serpentine Pavilion, in Hyde Park, which eclipses a lovely historic structure. Perfect! Modern architecture, for decades known fatuously as the International Style, is the best way to dilute the identity of any place where it is allowed. Unfortunately, it is allowed everywhere. No wonder a lot of folks complain that cities they love look increasingly like anyplace in the world – and hence no place at all. Way to strengthen the beloved national character!
The elected leaders who infest Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and Reykjavik should hang their heads in shame.
Rhode Island recently went through a similar exercise, spending time and money to rebrand a place with an identity that is already strong. It even featured a video that expressed pride at the cool places in Rhode Island. Except that one of the places in the video (actually the only shot of modern architecture) was in Iceland. This led to the state’s new accidental brand: “New Iceland.” That was only one of many stupid errors and idiotic concepts in the scheme. The rebranding was scuttled, mostly, but not before a lot of time and money was flushed down the drain. Consultants are working on a new rebranding scheme for Rhode Island, certain to be just as ridiculous.
One of the purposes of government is to find new ways to waste taxpayer dollars. Places with strong identities, such as Scandanavia and Rhode Island, can be thankful when money is all that is lost. Weaker places may find that “rebranding” also costs them what identity they have. And yet this kind of thing is becoming more popular in capitals around the globe. Go figure.