A day in the life of Sweden's southern cultural center.
If Scandinavia wields an outsized influence on the world, credit Gothenburg. The quiet little port town is an irresistible force, a centuries-old weight subtly exerting pressure on the long lever of culture, design, aesthetics and industry. It’s all here, modestly and merrily on display.
Two of Gothenburg’s marquee brands pulled me into its orbit: Volvo, the first car I ever drove and the kindling for the next 20-years of fiery hardcore enthusiasm, was the first. The second is camera-maker Hasselblad. Makers of the first machines I ever lusted after. But the cultural touch-points go on from there. Elektron synthesizers to PewDiePie. All from a city of half a million who get six hours of daylight in the winter. There’s something in the water. There must be.
It’s the right place to end our record run, there’s no question of that. It’s southern, it’s coastal, it’s the home of the car we’re meditatively wringing out over thousands and thousands of miles. The perfect place to let out a sigh of relief.
It turns out, it’s also the perfect place to breathe in a gulp of beer and sit riverside trying to figure out how so much Scandinavian influence slipped into our world.
Crinkled leather finishes tied tight to polished metal. The honesty of The Box. Leaving function aside, it’s what made the Volvos of my youth and the cameras I still covet today such lasting ideas in my head. And you see it everywhere in Gothenburg. Even in the streets. I can see the Hasselblad 501 in dark cobbles traced-through by bright, work-polished streetcar lines. On the Göta River I see the weather-rounded curves of the Volvo 240 in the way Gothenburg’s jetties gently pierce the horizon. Pulled apart, analyzed, Gothenburg is a cheat-sheet for successful design.
Alex Roy’s chasing a new record, ripping toward Gothenburg from Kiruna in northern Sweden. The little town is home to a Volvo test track, a missile test range and a small mining population so efficient that the town will have to move. There’s simply not enough soil left underneath to promise the ground won’t sink into the bowels of the earth.
He’ll drive south for a thousand miles, getting to know the new S90, and trying to set a semi-autonomous driving record in an unfamiliar car. He’ll get to know the advanced technology, the pilot assist. The striation of the interior, the way it’s sliced into layers of leather and wood and polished metal. A thousand miles away in Gothenburg, I feel like I already have.
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