Inspiration

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Trailblazers: Scandinavian traditions at NORM Architects

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NORM Architects was founded in 2008 by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen and Kasper Ronn. Based in the heart of Copenhagen, this architecture studio works in the fields of industrial design, residential architecture, commercial interiors, products and art direction to connect people, objects, spaces, photography and stories. The name NORM comes from the studio’s emphasis on drawing inspiration from refined traditions and norms within the architectural and aesthetic fields. We asked Managing Director, Katrine Goldstein, to tell us more.

Hi Katrine! How big is the NORM team and how are your talents divided amongst you?

Hi! There are eight people in our team - three in architecture, two in product design and two across photography, art direction and graphic design. The last one is the managing director (me!) who ties the ends together.

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What's the NORM design approach?

We make it our virtue to focus on quality, durability and timelessness. Design should not be easy, digestible, visual calories or being ‘new’ for the sake of it. We want our designs to be made from good materials and with good craftsmanship so that they embody beauty, history and–most importantly–so that they outlive fleeting trends.

When we started, architects of our generation did the opposite were thinking instead of noisy facades mixed with a postmodernist rejection of norms and standards. A lot of ‘blob architecture’ was created as a result. It may have looked spectacular from the outside, but as soon as you stepped inside an engineering company had taken over, and everything was standard solution. The reason we called the studio NORM was born out of a desire to go against this and to stick instead to Scandinavian design traditions.

With this in mind, we prefer to conceive a narrative for each individual project by adding intention to aesthetics. We do this by working within a framework of set questions: How do certain spaces evoke distinct behaviors and emotions? What are their perceived qualities? How do we become aware of this and use them purposefully?

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We absolutely love your recent project for Kinfolk's office space. Can you talk to us a bit about the brief and how you went about fulfilling it?

The Kinfolk Gallery and office space has been created in close dialogue with Nathan Williams and Jessica Gray from Kinfolk. This is how we work with all our clients. We try to combine our universe with theirs. The brief was to create a collaborative space where friends and partners could come together to share ideas and showcase their work in an office space that had an informal, elegant and homey atmosphere.

The resulting space consists of three zones. The front-end faces the busy Amager Torv in central Copenhagen with a full facade of big glass windows which invite the streets of Copenhagen inside. This part of the space is public and functions as a gallery and an area for gatherings. The second part of the space is the work area attached to the gallery and this is more separate and private. It is disconnected from the semi-public and public areas both stylistically and physically.

While the gallery and office areas are spacious and open plan, the back rooms are a more classic Copenhagen-style, with small rooms, wooden molding and millwork. Altogether it’s designed to be bright, light and harmonised in the front whilst it becomes darker and more intimate at the back. The interior architecture is minimalist, every single tone, nuance and material in the space has been carefully selected to create a harmonious, precise and natural feel, with haptic qualities that we felt were well suited to the Kinfolk credo of slow living.

The walls are all rendered with a toned plaster called Kabe, there are glass panels at the front and a long bench with Sorensen high-end Nubuk Analine leather runs from one end to the other. The big sitting nook in the corner is inspired by the Japanese tokonoma.

Altogether we hoped to create an elegant, sophisticated and crisp workplace that fits the Kinfolk ethos as well as with Scandinavian culture and history, and Japan traditions. The project has been a co-creation with a lot of brands, which has been both challenging and fun.

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Has this been your favourite project of 2016 then?

Yes, we loved working on it because of the ambition from the client's side as well as the collective nature of the project. A lot of partnerships had to take part to create the space and that was fun – the tables, for example, were bespokely designed for that space by Paustian.

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What brief are you most hoping for in 2017?

A small boutique hotel from an ambitious client who trusts in our ability to make their dreams come true. We want to do more hospitality projects. Restaurants or small hotels allow us to create visual universes around space, furniture, tableware and graphics which is fun and encompasses all of our skills.

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You guys have a fairly huge Instagram following, what's your approach to social media?

Social media is our main marketing platform so we only show our own projects and we take our followers very seriously. We have a high frequency of uploads and we don't waste our follower's time by showing them pictures from our Christmas party! You need to stay relevant in order to keep your followers.

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What do you want for Christmas?

Bonnie: The Hiroshoma armchair

Linda: A Mismo bag, a fireplace and an updated ceiling-to-floor material library

Laura: The Roly Poly chair by Faye Toogood

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What do you wish you'd designed and why?

We can't agree on this! But Laura loves Kunsten in Aarhus and Linda would have loved to have designed the Aesop stores.

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