Who are you? What do you do?

I moved to Oslo from London 8 years ago in search of the “good life” where I could be inspired by the Scandinavian culture and energized from the way of life here. I had always perceived Scandinavian design as the best in the world in terms of quality and relationship to context. I wanted to get first hand experience of this and where else to start than at Snohetta in Oslo. Here I grew and learnt the Scandi style, both in terms of design but also in terms of culture and lifestyle. I am an architect obsessed with working with concept and sensitivity of design and soon found my feet working in Norway. 

It was at Snohetta, that I met my business partner Erik Jacobsen. We shared ambitions and ethos for design and soon established CTRL+N. We were both young, ambitious and to some extent naïve to the industry. It was a very steep and quick learning experience to get to the point of being able to run and develop an architecture and design practice. During these months and years of hard work and little pay we developed relationships with other new start design practices both in Norway and abroad and soon realized that sharing skills and resources with other like-minded designers allowed us to both grow in terms of project delivery but more importantly allowed us to grow as architects. Although larger now, we still operate in the same way, always on the lookout for new design partners.

These working methods soon led us into a long term relationship with an established office called KONTUR with whom we are now merged with. We have our head office in Gjovik operating as KONTUR and our sister company CTRL+N in Oslo. We are now 20 employees in total with 5 partners working on a large variety of projects ranging from installations and furniture design up to large scale master planning (with just about everything in between.)

You get a new project. How do you start off?

Our first move is to sit down with the client and try to get a real sense of what it is they want or need. It is vital to create a good line of communication between the client and the designer from day 1. Although it is our job as the architect to provide the best possible solutions to the brief, it is also important to make sure that our ideas are in line with the ambitions of the client.

Next, and without fail it is time to group together, get out the pens, sketching paper and model making tools. Although 3D modelling tools and other computer software’s are essential to the process of design, I like to wait a while before logging onto my computer. I like to sit down and start the creative process by sitting with colleagues and discussing openly our thoughts on the project and our responses to the brief. This is a part of the project where no one is boss. We all go in at the same level and are free to express our ideas. Only by sharing ideas with others can you come to the best solutions.

What questions do you consider the most important to ask when starting a new project? Why?

Personally, the most important consideration is to ask whether the project will enable me to grow and develop my skills as a designer. Is it something that will inspire me to get out of bed in the morning, is it something that will keep me thinking until the early hours? If so, then it is a project worth engaging with.

Everybody talks a lot about ‘staying inspired’—how important is inspiration for you?

I don’t think it is possible to be a creative person without staying inspired. What we do is vocational. Most of us are not paid enough for the time we spend thinking and working. So to counter this we have to be and stay inspired. Inspiration is what drives us to do better. I spend a lot of time researching and keeping an eye on the design world, not just in architecture but in all fields. It is important to look around us, both in a local and global context. There is always someone creating something beautiful and it would be a shame to miss it.

What’s your favorite part of the creative process? Why?

The beginning, I am more of an ideas man, than a practical architect. My time is generally spent on the front end design looking at the concept and early stage analysis of projects.

Generally, what do you consider a ‘job well done’ when it comes to architecture/ interior architecture?

For me, architecture is about making space and experience better for people. If people can experience your design and feel positive from it then you have achieved something special.

Please tell me about the Breaking the Surface project — what was the brief?

We were invited by Scandinavian Design Group to join the project during the concept stage in late 2013. The brief from Lundin Norway was to create a groundbreaking installation for the upcoming ONS Expo in Stavanger 2014. Lundin Norway are an innovative company in themselves and wanted a team and design that reflected their own methodologies. Beyond this, the brief was open for discussion.

How did you go about on this project?

From day one we created great working relationships with the designers and project leaders at Scandinavian Design Group and worked through several concepts to present to the client, each one more complicated and challenging than the last. After serious debates and workshops we started to follow one specific path which would become “Breaking the Surface.”

The final team for the project was quite vast considering the project was only a few hundred square meters but what it lacked in size it made up for in complexity. We started our design process alongside Scandinavian Design Group and as the requirements grew for the different specialties so did the team. We were extremely lucky to be part of such an open minded group of people as the project required compromise and adaptation due to its complexity. This is also a reflection on the good will and patience of the client to allow this process to flourish and grow.

Any specific source of inspiration?

Inspiration in this project was mostly found internally by sharing ideas within the group but by also looking into detail about how the client operated and what their aspirations were for this project and as a company.

How was it to work with so many people on such a massive project? Any detours? Any never ending discussions?

Because the project was so complex and required so many specialist designers we all found our place within the project quite comfortably. There was also an element of respect for one another that allowed decisions to be made based on experience in the relevant fields. We were fortunate enough to be a team that was willing to listen to each other’s opinions and to evaluate the best approach at each step. Lots of small steps over several months led to a well formed and collaborated project. 

What do you like the most about multi-disciplinary projects/ collaborations like this?

Creating new relationships and expanding my knowledge base. Collaborations like this have led us into projects ordinarily not accessible to standard architectural practices. 

And the result. Was the original idea far from it?

There is always a certain amount of compromise between the conceived ideas to the end result. What we see in our heads at the beginning doesn’t always take into account all the real world factors, like budget, site constraints and the like but I think we actually came very close to what we had imagined. It is certainly one of those projects that looks better in reality than it ever could as sketches or animations