February 8, 2013
We’ve been in a Norway state of mind of late. No, it’s not about Munch or Ibsen or even the rather lush Liv Ullmann. What’s been on our mind is this really innovative design studio called Snøhetta. We’ve mostly been aware of their trans-Atlantic (Oslo/New York) practice for a while, but it was a recent feature in The New Yorker (21 Jan 2013) that really got us intrigued. They’ve just completed the quietly spectacular Oslo Opera House that, like shards of an impacted iceberg, crushes and juts its way into existence from the shoreline of an icy fjord. Equally open to the forces of nature, their undulating wooden reindeer viewing station is a pure exercise in elegance and restraint. The size and dimensions of a regular shipping container, its molded wooden slats undulate organically on the edge of a pristine deer reserve in the tundra, a half day’s drive north of Oslo. And then, of course, there’s their massive – and massively impressive – master plan for the regeneration of New York’s prime blight zone, Times Square. But what we love the most about this group is their absolutely laconic attitude to collaborative process. Co-founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, who heads up the Oslo office, says the firms ethos involves terms such as “open, direct, accessible, egalitarian – strange words that don’t mean anything until you see what they do.” His partner, Craig Dykers, who fronts the New York office simply calls their attitude “collectivist – anyone can suggest anything about anything.” Refreshing. And we’re not referring to their Nordic climes.