Gudmundur Ludvik, the Icelandic approach to life and design

22 February 2024

Gudmundur Ludvik

Optimism, focus and perseverance in everyday life as well as in design

“My trajectory was never planned but driven by curiosity and a desire for new challenges. Today I am grateful to have found my playground, balancing the professional pillars of crafts, art, and design”: this is how Gudmundur Ludvik, tells his story. The Icelandic designer was asked by Carl Hansen & Søn to design the Timbur GL101 Outdoor Bench, expressing the shared passion for natural materials, quality craftsmanship and minimalist aesthetics.

Carl Hansen Timbur Outdoor Bench
Carl Hansen & Søn GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench

What was your educational background and why did you choose to become a designer?

I have always had a curious nature and the desire to understand how things are constructed and how they work. From early age I found it fascinating to create and build things with my own hands. This was my way of exploring and gaining knowledge about the qualities of materials and the laws of physics. In school I struggled to maintain focus and interest in the academic subjects, while drawing, arts and crafts were my field – here I was never bored, and everything made sense to me. Therefore, it felt natural to continue in this direction and become a carpenter. A decision that I am very grateful for today and that has been fundamental for my way of working with design.

After several years of working as a craftsman my curiosity and desire to try new things led me towards studies in sculpture at the Icelandic Academy of Arts. Here I was able to explore further and more freely experiment with the shapes of things and creative processes. Still, I was drawn towards working with crafts and functionality and this brought me, again by curiosity and somewhat coincidence, to Copenhagen, Denmark where I studied furniture at the Royal Danish Academy. Since then, Denmark has been my base from where I run my design practice and studio.

Carl Hansen Outdoor Bench
Carl Hansen & Søn GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench

Are you still able to dedicate yourself to materials and crafts and experiment a little bit with them?

I am so grateful to have this background because it helped me a lot during the years and still now my design process goes back and forth between sketching ideas and making prototypes to give me an idea of the proportions and the tactility, the look of the material and how it reacts to various things. During my work as a designer 3D drawing and printing 3D objects has become as a useful tool and a bigger part of my work. I use 3D tools primarily for sketching while modelling in the final materials and scale brings me much closer to the end product and tangible reality. My studio has an integrated workshop space and this makes it easy for me to continuously shift between different methods.

Carl Hansen Timbur Bench
Carl Hansen & Søn GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench

You mentioned the tactility, and as a craftsman you have a strong relationship with materials: what’s your favorite material and why?

It depends on the context; I love true material and when materials are allowed to stand out. I find wood to be a very nice material but also a piece of metal can be a very nice material when It’s used in the right way and for the right purpose because there is an interaction between the material and what it is used for.

Timbur Outdoor GL101
Carl Hansen & Søn GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench

How do you approach a new project?

A new project sometimes springs from an unmet need or a potential for a better solution that comes to my attention. But often I work from design briefs commissioned by companies. In all cases I enjoy working within a framework and optimising the output to meet demands for functionality, quality, aesthetics, availability, pricing and sustainability for a mass-produced design. I acknowledge my responsibility and role as a designer, and I put a lot of effort and take pride in including those different factors in my process.

It is a natural and logical approach for me, that the aesthetic expression is closely linked to the functionality of the design. Identifying the essence, may it be a feature central to the user interaction with the design or a detail deriving from the construction and production, and letting this guide the rest of the design. Without clouding it with any more details than what is necessary.

I always strive to make well balanced and long lasting products. This can be achieved, I believe, when all of the above factors are in place.

Carl Hansen GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench
Carl Hansen & Søn GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench

How did the collaboration with Carl Hansen & Søn and in particular the project for the Timbur Outdoor Bench come about?

The Timbur Outdoor Bench design is a result of my own studies and exploration of the interaction between the material, the solid wood, and the construction, or the composition. The idea and development started during the covid pandemic where people’s interactions were limited. This inspired me to create a bench, a shared space, and an invitation for interaction. 

It is designed with sustainability as a guideline, both socially and in terms of climate. It aims towards treating resources responsibly and making the most of what we have, allowing the wood to play the lead both in terms of aesthetics and construction. With this bench I explore the qualities of the material and the balance between simplicity and exclusivity, be it indoor or outdoor. Carl Hansen & Søn is a company that I had dreamed of working with. I respect the company very much and acknowledge their great heritage. I had a strong feeling while working on the project, that this might be a match for Carl Hansen & Søn. The Timbur Outdoor Bench is the first product we have done together and hopefully it will create a strong foundation for the future.

Carl Hansen GL101
Carl Hansen & Søn GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench

What’s your idea of the perfect outdoor furniture?

Functionality, comfort and durability are very important to me, and when designing a furniture for outdoor use you need to approach it in a different way. Materials and their properties change, due to the elements of nature. If you want something to last, you need to respect how it patinates and looks after years in the sun and the rain. With regards to functionality and comfort, you need to consider how different climates affect materials and the user experience. Nobody enjoys a burning hot metal seat on a warm summer day. Wood reacts more neutral to temperature and is a more comfortable choice. The Timbur Outdoor Bench is my idea of comfort, functionality and durability ascending into a successful outdoor furniture.

Carl Hansen Outdoor Bench-1
Carl Hansen & Søn GL101 Timbur Outdoor Bench

You grew up in Iceland: how does this territory influence your way of designing?

In Iceland we do not have quite the same rich design heritage as in Denmark, where I am based today. What we do have in Iceland is a special relationship between human and nature. We are used to being subjects to natures raw powers and the raging of the elements. I think this has given Icelanders a hardy approach to life. We also have a strong belief that no matter how tough things get it will all work out in the end. This means we stay optimistic, focused and persistent despite any obstacles that arrive. This is something that is imprinted in my upbringing and I still consider to be a big part of who I am today. It has given me a strong drive and work ethics in my work as a designer.


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