Have you ever thought about how impacting the physical environment is on your mental health and happiness? Well, architects from the Nordic countries have been carefully crafting the spaces where humans develop their daily lives under two primary facts; functionalism combined with optimal solutions to provide maximum comfort and environmental efficiency under minimalist aesthetics.

Scandinavian architecture has its foundations on different design elements that together compose a coherent assemble between materials, technology, sustainability, and nature. Their delicacy on imagining what the physical environment should be for all human activities is what separates them from the rest of the world. Ever since the Nordic tradition has prioritized to keep users warm and safe from the cold weather. Based on specific values that architects could contribute to the collective welfare and comfort, and of course, creating a strong relationship with the surrounding landscape.

This article aims to highlight some of the offices that have established an evolutionary process in architecture across the Nordic cities. These offices have shaped Nordic citizens in such a way that they find balance and healthy working and living environments highly impacting on their well-being and daily performance. This is because Nordic architecture combines clean aesthetics by using high-quality materials and furniture with building shapes that maximize the entrance of natural light and frame the natural landscape. Thus, having bright and spacious interiors in combination with stunning views and creative building shapes are some of the elements that make Nordic cities and their inhabitants to enjoy life at its best. Recreational areas, clean and safe environments, and efficient buildings provide what is necessary for human development in an optimal way.

That being said, here are the Top 10 architecture offices I personally love because of their approach and philosophy about making architecture and cities. Enjoy!

Denmark.

1. COBE

Nørreport Station
Source: http://www.cobe.dk / © Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

Founded in 2006 by architect Dan Stubbergaard, COBE offers services from urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design. One of the most valuable attributes of COBE is the aim to reduce CO2 emissions within the building and construction industry by designing projects that are resilient and long-lasting, suitable for future generations. COBE has made significant changes in the city of Copenhagen, by transforming an industrial port city into a vibrant, liveable modern capital. They have developed green mobility projects, which helped the city to de-congest the dense traffic and organize one of the busiest mobility hubs that Copenhagen has. Furthermore, they have made significant public space transformations where people enjoy outdoor recreation and make the city to be more friendly and car-free.

COBE practices re-use in every possible way. Their major existing structure transformation is “The Silo.” This building was a former grain silo in the north of the city. This concrete structure has been transformed into an exquisite housing project where thousands of concrete were re-used. Their philosophy on re-using existing structures and materials helps the city to maintain its historical background but also to reduce CO2 emissions. Thus, this architecture office has helped the city of Copenhagen to be a leading sustainable city. Also, it has helped the citizens to live in a vibrant and healthy environment.

The Library
Source: http://www.cobe.dk / © Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST
Kid’s City Christianshavn
Source: http://www.cobe.dk / © Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

2. BIG | Bjarke Ingels Group

Glasir Tórshavn College
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

Bjarke Ingels Group was founded in 2005 by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. His definition of the practice of architecture is about conceiving it as the art and science of making buildings and cities meet the needs of the way we want to live our lives. Emerging from analysis focused strategies on how contemporary life constantly evolves. BIG’s philosophy aims their projects to include multicultural exchange, global economical flows, and communication technologies to appoint their projects towards complex needs from cities and society.

BIG’s true essence relies on how they approach societal and economic challenges through utopian architecture. This posture is not only limited to break conventional boxes in architecture. It arises to go above and beyond from digital formalism and step forward in the future by combining established architecture programs with the limits between pragmatism and utopia.

BIG is well known also for incorporating data information to provide strategic solutions to each project. The project starts by identifying key factors and criteria for each problem they face. They see the problem as the answer at the same time they recognize the highest potential the project in question has.

Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © BIG
Méca Cultural Center
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Laurian Ghinitoiu

3. 3XN

Odenplan Station
Source: http://www.3xn.com / © 3XN

This architecture studio was founded in 1986 in the city of Aarhus, Denmark by Kim Herforth Nielsen, Lars Frank Nielsen and Hans Peter Svendler Nielsen. 3XN has one essential aspect of the human behavior spectrum portrayed in their buildings. They base their projects on researching how buildings reflect and inform in the most exceptional possible way the human behavior and the environment. 3XN aims to improve communities using buildings as catalyst elements for social cohesion and enhance the relationship between the built and the landscape.

They have incorporated different innovative design processes into their practice. Such as circular construction methodologies and circular materials to fight climate change and minimize the footprint the building process has. Furthermore, they aim to use timber in innovative ways in response to climatic challenges accompanied to parametric design where they explore diverse ways to make adaptive architecture to the future.

Olympic House – IOC Headquarters
Source: http://www.3xn.com / © 3XN
Lemvig Climatorium
Source: http://www.3xn.com / © 3XN

4. Henning Larsen

The Wave
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Jacob Due

Founded out of the Scandinavian tradition, Henning Larsen is an office conformed by architects, designers, engineers, thinkers, and doers. They offer architecture, landscape design, engineering, interior, and graphic design and consultancy. The office was founded by Danish architect Henning Larsen in 1959 with an architectural approach based on curiosity and audacity. Henning Larsen was a prominent Danish architect recognized as the “Master of Light.” With more than 50 years of practice, he spread the Danish way of making architecture by various notable projects.

The office methodology of working is based on sharing knowledge. Working in a trans-disciplinary and multicultural setting, Henning Larsen functions through dialogue between all parties involved in each project. Their primary objective is to create an open table where everyone contributes to delivering optimal and sustainable solutions.

Through a holistic approach, they involve three fundamental factors that impact their practice; social, environmental, and economic sustainability. As members of the UN Global Compact, Henning Larsen strive to optimize energy and resource-efficiency in all of their projects. They aim to create progressive design solutions by implementing materials and technologies that meet tomorrow’s challenges and needs.

Town Hall Eysturkommuna
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Nic Lehoux
Uppsala Concert & Congress Hall
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Åke E:son Lindman

5. C.F. Møller Architects

V-Houses
Source: http://www.cfmoller.com / © C.F. Møller

With more than 90 years of practicing in the Nordic region and worldwide, C.F. Møller is an award-winning office founded on innovation, experience, and Nordic values. Ensuring sustainable and aesthetic solutions for long-lasting projects across the world. It was founded in 1924 in Denmark and, since then, the office has contributed widely to the welfare of societies in Scandinavia and across the world.

They involve environmental concerns, resource-consciousness, healthy project finances, social responsibility, and fine craftsmanship as core elements of their work. Aside from architectural design, they offer landscape consulting for large-scale infrastructure projects. Including strategies for urban development and renewal for urban spaces such as harbor renovations, dense traffic areas, squares, etc. Moreover, C.F. Møller offers industrial design in which they cooperate with Danish and international companies to develop innovative and meaningful products within the architecture and furniture design field.

The Heart in Ikast
Source: http://www.cfmoller.com / © C.F. Møller
Odeon Music and Theatre Hall
Source: http://www.cfmoller.com / © C.F. Møller

Norway.

6. Snøhetta

Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion
Source: http://www.snohetta.com / © Snøhetta

Starting as a collaborative architectural and landscape workshop, Snøhetta seeks for a transdisciplinary way of thinking. This Norwegian firm was founded in 1989 by Inge Dahlman, Berit Hartveit , Johan Johan Østengen, Alf Haukeland,Vanko Varbanov Øyvind Mo y Kjetil Trædal Thorsen. Their primary focus is to enhance human senses of our surroundings, identity, and the relationship between humans and the physical spaces. Snøhetta commits to “experience” as the core of their design process. They aim to engage the senses and physicality of the human body, whereas striving for social interaction within their projects.

Snøhetta simultaneously works between the exploration of traditional handicraft and innovative technology. Additionally, Snøhetta is the lead architect in the Powerhouse collaboration, a multidisciplinary partnership within the building industry leaders dedicated to creating energy-positive buildings. Keeping as one of their main goals to impact policy-making and to set new market standards for planning and construction.

Lastly, one of Snøhetta’s remarkable assets is its “Transpositioning” working method. Employees are motivated to break from their professional role and switch perspectives with other members of the work team. This results in releasing one’s freedom to exchange empathy and step out from habitual thinking. Understanding how others drive their design process and individual perspective on their role, creates a universal way of communicating across cultures and disciplines. This “Transpositioning” working method promotes moving out of one’s comfort zone, defines narrow-minded thinking, and persuades the holistic approach on each project they develop.

Norwegian National Opera and Ballet
Source: http://www.snohetta.com / © Snøhetta
Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion
Source: http://www.snohetta.com / © Snøhetta

7. Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

Norwegian Mountaineering Center
Source: http://www.reiulframstadarchitectes.com / © Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

Independent Oslo-based architectural firm that strives to create bold, simple architecture with a strong connection to the Scandinavian context and its landscape specifically. RRA believes that architecture must be instructed by the uniqueness of its location, guiding the building to highlight the place and the place to merge with the building. This act of mutualism clarifies the physical situation of a given location, architecture can portray the place impressions.

RRA has a strong focus on the uniqueness of every site and therefore limits its palette to natural materials and the sense of the location’s spatiality. RRA is highly distinguished by innovative tectonic forms that interpret spatial continuity. Moreover, they have extensive collaboration with environmental consultants. Their working method involves procedures for identification and making of environmental objectives within each of their projects. RRA methodology consists of a symbiosis of analog and digital technologies. They study the relationship between hand-crafted and machine-made processes by providing attention to every aspect and detail throughout the design process and its execution.

Trollstigen Visitor Centre
Source: http://www.reiulframstadarchitectes.com / © Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter
Urtegata 9
Source: http://www.reiulframstadarchitectes.com / © Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

8. NORDIC Office of Architecture

Oslo Airport Expansion
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Ivan Brodey

Nordic is an architecture firm based in Oslo with offices in Copenhagen, London, and Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. Nordic was first established in 1970 under the name Narud Stokke Wiig. Later on in 1992, Nordic emerged, and NSW split into two separate companies. In 2018 Norconsult became Nordic’s major shareholder; Norconsult is one of Norway’s largest and multidisciplinary consultancy firms in the Nordic region.

Nordic offers master planning, urban planning, architectural design, interior design, furniture, and product design, visualization, VR/AR and film, design management, and BIM management. Nordic’s work methodology consists of three major points:

  • Conceptual thinking
  • Holistic approach
  • Documentation throughout

This method is built around classical problem-solving techniques: observing, thinking, and acting. Nordic gathers all relevant information regarding the building process, investigate the location, and approach people involved. To get the best possible overview of the factors affecting each project. Secondly, they analyze the research to gain insight and deepen the understanding of the problem. Followed by turning the analysis into the premise of the concepts that compose the next phase. Afterward, the investigation, the work team proceeds to develop the concept or a combination of concepts that precedes the actual project development.

Nordic is fully committed to society. Driven by their passion for architecture and responsibility to the future. They aim to positively influence the industry and society as a whole. They take part in some of the leading sustainability organizations across the Nordic region; Norwegian Green Building Council, buildingSMART, and UN Global Compact. Their sustainability goals guide their work with issues regarding the environment, human rights, labor, and anti-corruption.

Voss High School
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Kontraframe

Sweden.

9. Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

Lagnö House
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Åke E:son Lindman

Tham & Videgard is based in Stockholm, founded in 1999 by Bolle Tham and Martin Videgard. The office is particularly renowned for its experimental approach and innovative built works. Tham & Videgard has extensive work abroad and has participated in various prestigious exhibitions across the world, for instance, at La Galerie d’Architecture in Paris, the Lisbon Triennale, Venice Architecture Biennales, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art.

Kalmar Museum of Art
Source: http://www.archdaily.com / © Åke E:son Lindman

Finland.

10. ALA Architects

Kilden Performing Arts Centre in Kristiansand
Source: http://www.ala.fi / © Tuomas Uusheimo

ALA Architects is a Helsinki-based firm founded in 2005 by Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta, and Samuli Woolston after winning the 1st prize for the new theater and concert hall in Kristiansand, Norway. ALA stands for fresh and novel angles, flowing forms, and innovative solutions. They believe that beauty in architecture is achieved by combining the intuitive with the analytical, the practical with the extravagant, the rational with the irrational. ALA uses contemporary design tools, including BIM, 3D printing, and parametric design software combined with traditional model building and material research.

Aalto University Main Building
Source: http://www.ala.fi / © Marc Goodwin
Aalto University Metro Station
Source: http://www.ala.fi / © ALA

See also:

Denmark

Norway

Sweden

Finland

All information about each office profile was extracted from the corresponding website.

Credits from the cover photo belong to © Lorena Cruz. The photo was taken in 2019 in the city of Copenhagen and it is showcasing the project “Cykelslangen” by Dissing + Weitling.

By Lorena Cruz

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