No other air purifier has won as many design prizes as the Blueair Sense. We meet the trio of ­designers behind it to talk about sustainability, the environment, and what the future holds.

Text: Anders Bergmark     Photo: Karl Nordlund & Philip Karlberg    
Image above: Three men and a purifier. From left: Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune.

Claesson Koivisto Rune is a Swedish partner­ship founded in Stockholm in 1995. Started as an architectual firm, it has since become a multi-­disciplinary practice working with buildings, hotels, offices, textiles, furniture, electronics – and even sweets.

And the winner is!

Blueair Sense has won numerous awards: Good Design Award, 2012. Design S, Swedish Design Award, Nominee, 2012. Good Design Award, Japan 2012. Red Dot Award – Best of the Best, Germany, 2013. Designpreis Deutschland, Special Mention, 2014.

Claesson Koivisto Rune on…

…its award-winning air purifier Blueair Sense.

Mårten Claesson: When we looked at what was already on the market, they mostly looked like old PC towers from the 90s – something you’d want to hide away rather than show off in your bedroom. We thought it should be shown off as an air purifier, so why not design it with the same care as a beautiful piece of furniture?

Ola Rune: Blueair Sense was launched at a major trade show in Chicago, and there were some comments that the design did not enhance the performance. The funny thing was that it only took a few hours before the sellers came in and reported that no one was asking about the performance. Of all the products we’ve designed, Blueair Sense has won the most awards.

…sustainable design.

Rune: I think products that have such a high quality that you want to maintain and preserve them for as long as possible can withstand changes in fashion. Blueair Sense is a good example. Seven years is a really long time in the electronics world. If you take almost any other product that’s seven years old, it looks like something from a past era.

Claesson: Architecture is much more durable than product design, just by its nature – it takes longer to make and it has to last longer. We are architects and we try to think the same way when we work with design. Most of our products end up in constructed environments and have to interact with the room, so it has a lot to do with being a little toned down. They’re not the garishly dressed solo artist standing in the spotlight and screaming while the other musicians are in the shadow. It’s more about harmonising and creating an amazing tune instead.

…environmental role models.

Eero Koivisto: Swedish furniture brand Offecct is a good example – there’s not a single gadget or package in that entire company that you don’t know where it’s going. The company also has a service where you can turn in your furniture to get it reupholstered and you can return used furniture, which the company then resells. Another example is the Finnish furniture brand Nikari, which has its own ­hydroelectric plants that supply the factory with electricity. The excess energy is sold back to the community.

… how design can contribute to making a better ­environment.

Koivisto: By making a design that requires less resources and less material. Designs made by people who have spent a hundred thousand hours to make something – which is what is required for it to be good – always contribute to a better environment.

Claesson: Maintaining something always reduces your impact on the environment, compared to just replacing it. The pursuit of quality is our contribution to a better world.

… worst environmental experience.

Koivisto: It has to be certain discount stores. I hate it when something is poorly thought-out and poor quality. I’ve been in cities where the air is bad and the water tastes terrible, but that’s what happens when the designed environment doesn’t leave room for people.

… best air memory.

Rune: The coolest thing I’ve been through was when I was getting my diving certificate and took my first breath underwater. I’ll never ­forget it. Hearing your breath and breathing in an environment where it shouldn’t really be possible was crazy. And magical.

…how they contribute to a better environment.

Koivisto: I don’t have a car because I think it’s immoral. I take public transportation instead and I am trying to eat less meat. Everyone can do something to improve the situation.

Rune: I return empty glass bottles. I even started buying milk in those glass bottles in my local grocery store that can be reused. But I also fly across the globe several times a year. So, technically, I’m guilty.

Claesson: We have to remember that we’re part of a world that is being built and developed all the time, and someone has to decide which direction all this building will take. If we have the aptitude and experience for it, the best thing we can do for the world is to do our job as best we can. If we get a building to stand for 10 more years, that’s an environmental saving that far exceeds
the negative impact of air travel.

…what the world’s major cities will look ­ like in 20 years’ time.

Claesson: There is an electric revolution that
is developing rapidly, and it will make a big difference for the problem of air pollution. Another thing that will be very important is e-commerce. Until now, stores have dominated the cityscape but soon many of them will not be needed. But I don’t know what comes after that. People will continue to be drawn to cities and that’s something positive. Per capita, a city is much more environmentally friendly than the countryside.

…whether it is possible to reverse the negative ­environmental impacts.

Eero: Of course it is. But it won’t be so much about how some people in the West live, as how the people in the third world who don’t have money will live when they do get money.

Rune: I don’t think so. Not until it has gone so far that the effects are no longer foreseeable.

Claesson: I’m a little more optimistic, actually. I think there’s a tipping point in the works, as alternative energy production and use has ­become so profitable that it’s competing with fossil fuels. I’m thinking, for example, of solar energy and electric transport and cars. People are creative when they really need to be.