The design education opened the door to Christopher's dream job
When Christopher Gleeson applied to HDK-Valand’s design programme, he had already made up his mind. He was going to get a job as an interior designer at Wingårdh Architects. It’s now a little more than a decade since, and that’s exactly what he did – and what he’s been doing for several years now.
Christopher Gleeson has always been goal oriented. Long before he took the decision to study in HDK-Valand’s Bachelor's programme in design, his sights were set on something else entirely. He wanted to be a pilot.
“I guess everyone dreams of being a pilot when they’re five years old,” he says, “but I didn’t let go of that dream until I was twenty-three and fully trained for the profession.”
And yet he never worked as a pilot. Not one day. He still flies sometimes just for fun, but when the time came for Christopher to enter the field and apply for jobs, he found that his motivation had evaporated. It didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the life he wanted to live.
“My father was an art teacher, and I’ve always liked painting and building models,” says Christopher. “So I painted some pictures for fun, and it just made me happy.”
When he came to that insight, though, the application deadline for HDK-Valand had already passed. Instead, he spent a preparatory year in art school before he was finally able to start work toward his undergraduate degree.
“That’s where I decided I wanted to work at Wingårdhs,” he says. “We came here on a school field trip. I liked what Gert Wingårdh does, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be here.”
Christopher has now been with Wingårdh Architects for a little more than six years. As an interior designer, he is often engaged in several different projects at the same time – from hotels on Mallorca to offices for Swedish companies.
When asked whether he has a design style of his own, the answer is both yes and no. Of course he has his own sense of style. But he doesn’t want it to show when he’s working for the firm’s clients. It’s not what drives the decisions.
“For us it’s always the client and the context that are the basis for for our work,” he explains. “Of course, it’s inevitable that everything I do and work with is funnelled through my own filter.”
Your filter – how would you describe it?
“I like to scale things down to fundamental geometric forms,” says Christopher. “Recently I designed the handle for a sliding glass door. I scaled it down to a rectangular solid and a cylinder. In the end, the final design wasn’t exactly like that, but that’s the way I think.”
He has already designed a number of pieces of furniture on his own outside of work. These include a chair that went into production and was even known “as seen on TV,” having been part of the set for Channel 4’s programme So Much Better. But starting your own business in the same industry where you already have a good job is usually tricky. And there are only twenty-four hours in the day. For the time being, a full-time job, a house on Hönö Island and two small children are more than enough to fill the day.
Christopher hopes that at some point in the future there will once again be time for his own creations. Sometimes he longs for the days in the workshop at HDK-Valand – for the opportunity to work a little more concretely with his hands and for the proximity between idea and finished product. In a big firm, a lot of time can pass between when Christopher makes his contribution to the design and when it comes to life.
“I have this longing to make things myself, for the tactile,” he says. “But it’s not like I want to be a furniture maker. At the moment I’ve been longing more and more to work with even more fun projects, and I really want to keep expanding my expertise right where I am here and now.”
Do you think the programme at HDK-Valand gave you the tools you need?
“I might not say ‘gave me’ exactly; more like I took from it what I needed. One of the strengths of HDK-Valand is that it’s so unrestricted and broad. There’s a lot of expertise in the buildings, but it’s not always obvious to see. But since I knew what I wanted to do, that I wanted to end up here, I had the freedom to go my own way and seek out the right expertise so I could learn all the right things.”
By Camilla Adolfsson