An Evening with a Celebrated Norwegian Architect

Thanks to the good people at Metro Performance Glass, we recently attended a presentation by Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, the celebrated Norwegian architect.  Thorsen co-founded Snøhetta, the international architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and brand design firm.  Snøhetta is based in Oslo and New York City, and has studios in San Francisco, Innsbruck, and Singapore.  It was rare treat to have someone of Thorsen’s standing within the global design community visit New Zealand and such was the level of interest in his Wellington presentation that the organisers had to change the venue three times to accommodate the swell of people interested in hearing him speak. 

All images here are some of our favourites from Snohetta's amazing portfolio that Thorsen shared with us throughout his presentation. 

Norwegian Opera and Ballet, Oslo, Norway 2000 - 2008

Thorsen offered a fascinating account of how creates the necessary conditions in his open-plan Oslo office to enable effective creative collaboration among his staff.  Central to this is the desire to group together Snøhetta staffers on the basis of their shared personal interests - such as music or sport -  rather than their common professional focus.  The theory here is that this sort of integration encourages a special bond to form between colleagues, which can translate into better creative collaboration.  Indeed, promoting personal bonds between staff is a Snøhetta hallmark.  

Snohetta Office, Oslo, Norway

Thorsen enthusiastically spoke of the mountain trek to the Arctic Circle that up to one hundred of his staff – from around the world – embark on each year.  He explained that this exercise also underscores the inherent relationship Snøhetta has with the environment within its design philosophy.  Architecture, Thorsen proclaimed, should both contrast with and draw inspiration from the environment around it.  This duality is most clearly reflected in Snøhetta’s famed Reindeer viewing pavilion.

Norwegian Wild Reindeer Pavilion, Hjerkinn, Dovre, Norway 2009 - 2011

Lofoten Opera Hotel, Lofoten, Norway - the project is ongoing and this image is a convincing rendering.

Thorsen also talked about how Snøhetta’s designs can make a social statement and help generate sustainable social change.  One way to do so, he argued, was to introduce into project design, good-sized public spaces that enable disparate communities to come together in an organic manner. Thorsen is certainly not officiously pious on the importance of social change and doesn’t come across as an insistent activist to the cause.  He is, after all, a designer by trade and it was our sense that he would rather keep to his lane.  Nevertheless, Thorsen accepted the power of good architecture to bring people together in a common and much loved space.  And from this, he contends, could spring sustainable social change in whatever form it takes.  

We believe that there is merit to this argument and it is clear that an abstract enthusiasm for social change is a design imperative in many Snøhetta’s projects, particularly in the Middle East. But also at home in Oslo, where the public lobby of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet (see at top) is open 24 hours, 7 days to let the people gather and enjoy the surroundings with each other.

The night, however, belonged to the breathtaking effect of Snøhetta’s design projects that left us enthralled and elevated.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt 1989 - 2001

Aesop Store, Oslo, Norway 2014 

SFMOMA Expansion, San Francisco, California, USA 2010 - expected 2016

Words by Craig Greaves.
Photographs via Snohetta.
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West London Family Home

As the arrival of the new CMID blog draws near, we pause to reflect on designers that are of particular appeal one way or another.   We are drawn to the residential works of the Charles Mellersh Design Studio for its enduring commitment to simplicity without draining rooms of warmth and comfort.  This is evident in an older post looking at previous Charles Mellersh work - see here  - as it is with this more recent West London effort, as seen above and below.  Though each interior is site specific and styled in different ways, both are undeniably warm and layered with eye-catching visuals that do not burden the limited space.  It's a good balancing act and effective interior design can often be reduced to finding balance. 

Interesting sidebar:  Charles Mellersh started his design career as a journalist and stylist, including a stint as an interiors editor with the influential magazine, Wallpaper*.  This would have provided ample opportunity to hone his style and, perhaps, approach his own design work with a practiced critical eye for what works for the broader  readership/audience.  And indeed, the rooms below have a certain unifying appeal to them that could cut across various demographics: male/female, family home/professional couple without kids etc.  It's both versatile and smart politics!

Words by Craig Greaves and photographs via Charles Mellersh Design Studio
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Fritz Hansen Milan Showroom Updated

While we are working hard to put the final touches on the new CMID blog behind the scenes, it has been instructive to look at old postings and wonder about the progress or changes that may have been made over time.  Measuring change is, we think, an important exercise in interior design as a means to draw inspiration from established style or assessing your own ideas against new and innovative thinking. It keeps you sharp.

Consider the contrast between the Republic of Fritz Hansen Milan Showroom circa 2013, which you can see here and its showroom at the Salone del Mobile 2015, the world's most important furniture fair in Milan, as shown.  The shift in style and presentation is quite stark. The contrast is illustrative as to how Fritz Hansen aims to promote ideas as to how to use its products by having settings that is, perhaps, easier for customers to visualise, and indeed understand. The warmer, more homely stage that stylist Christine Rudolph has designed for last year's Salone enables Fritz Hansen products - old and new -  to better perform in a way that highlights quality and, importantly, practical application. 

Whereas the 2013 presentation was rather clinical in its form, the slightly dishevelled look of the 2015 incarnation speaks more about the design practicality of the products without detracting their style worth.

Let's be honest, the lived-in look of the presentation will be familiar to many and, we think, helps better explain the products.

The value of natural light cannot be underestimated in showcasing interior products. The 2015 presentation uses it with great effect, bringing the room to life.

The bikes, the books, the casually placed throw rugs are key supporting  players to the main attraction of the presentation.  The warmth and personality they add it each room only brings out the presence of the Fritz Hansen products.

This could have been a somewhat sterile view were not for the shoes, which softens the visual in a nice way.

An unmade bed - good heavens! And yet, it forms a critical centrepiece to showcase the surrounding products.

CMID does a lot of kitchen work and we admire this one for its simplicity, efficiency, and openness.  Intriguing splash back I might add. The colour palette is striking and works really well in promoting the kitchen's role as a inviting focal point in any household.

Words by Craig Greaves.
Photographs via Fritz Hansen FB page.
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Best of CMID - Scandinavian Style

There’s a good reason why the CMID blog has been dormant of late.  We have been busy focusing our efforts on developing a newly crafted blog, with a re-launch planned for the end of February.

Remaining true to your essential style while constantly keeping your work fresh are key elements that work in tandem to deliver effective and successful interior design.  The new CMID blog aims to reflect this thinking.

In the interim, and to possibly to keep your whistle whet, here's a retrospective of the CMID blog’s most popular postings.  If you are a regular reader, it might not escape your attention that Charlotte admires Scandinavian style and this is reflected in the popularity of related posts.  She is drawn to its modernity, natural functionality, and often-unobstructed simplicity of interiors and exteriors. 

Click the link provided below the images to see more of each posting.  And, look out for the CMID blog version 2.0 in February. 

Michel, Helsinki (2015)

Words by Craig Greaves. 
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