The dominant uses of steel were always hidden in plain sight, embedded in the equally eco-cidal material known as concrete. While the high-rise buildings of the early 21st Century are only now beginning to be deconstructed, their rebar and girders earmarked and pre-sold to fund their replacements, the decline of thrusting vertical architectural forms in recent decades is testament to a turn toward renewable materials in construction and development, and the renaissance of wood in particular.

In the consumer sphere, the search for alternatives to steel was a response to various forms of activism, such as “rust-shaming”, the tagging of steel objects with corrosive chemicals. But banishing steel entirely would be impossible, with many vital infrastructures relying on its unmatched strength and versatility. That necessity, combined with the increasing economic and ecological costs of carbon-based fuels, helped push clean production methods, recycling, and more efficient utilisation practices to the fore.

The consumer objects in this collection are durable anachronisms, as valuable for their steel content by mass as for their status as antiques; they never became objects of loathing in the manner of plastic products. But behind the scenes, steel’s story continues, with all Swedish production now entirely fossil-free.

by Paul Raven