• Nr. 23 is a new take on the wheelchair by product designer Harpa Björnsdóttir.


    The wheelchair is the strongest emblem of disability in today’s society. For many, it connotates restriction, dependency and personal tragedy. This is in sharp contradistinction to the disabled user’s perspective, who values the chair for the opportunities it creates. Freedom and independence.


    Nr. 23 continously reminds us of how dim and underdeveloped our understanding of disability is. It is our obligation to expose the present, disturbing prejudices, and to deconstruct the barriers surrounding them.


    Nr. 23’s open functionality and objective nature helps it to take on a political role in restructuring the outdated social values that apply to disability. It is an object of curiosity and disremembered tragedy.
    Beauty is multiplicity, not singularity.



    What were the inspirations for this project?

    I grew up where disability was a normal element in my everyday live and I started to work with disabled people when I was quite young. Disability was the focus point for this project but I got the inspiration when writing my dissertation that explores disability art and how it is related to product design.

    Disability art, in a traditional sense, is art made by disabled people and supposedly challenges the dominant societal views on disabled people.

    What are the materials you used and why did you select them?

    The materials in the object, steel, aluminum, rubber and plastic, (a wheelchair no longer in use) are jointly rooted in and intertwined with the original conceptual idea and therefore is irreplaceable. The fundamental material used for this project is of conceptual nature.
    It’s the interplay of those different societal functions that are to do with disability and realized in the object.

    What are the most important things you learned while studying in LHI?

    There are many things that I have learned but if I have to name something it would be that I have gotten to know different materials and how to reduce them. I think that is important so you can get the feeling of what is possible to do with each material and what is not.

    Group work is something that I think is really challenging and in a way constitutive if you want to become a designer. In that way you can get many different perspectives which can often lead to something unexpected. Than last but not least I have learnt to never give up and trust my inner-gut.

    How does the Icelandic design scene look through the eyes of a graduating designer?

    This is a small country with a lot of possibilities. I think it is really interesting and challenging to work with the elements that already are here. For example the materials, the companies, the nature, the people, the isolation, the proximity and I could go on forever…..

    I think it needs more creativity and boldness but I feel like there is a lot of growth going on right now. Lots of new graduated design students from LHI and the once that are moving back home after studying abroad will and are bringing more fertility and originality to the Icelandic design scene.

    What is good product design in your opinion?

    I think it depends on what you are looking at. But when you look at a product and you can see the effort that the designer has put into it. Research, time, craft, imagination, passion, or whatever it is , that always impresses me.

    Nr. 23 is on display at the Iceland Academy of the Arts graduation exhibition at Reykjavik Art Museum Hafnarhús until May 6th.