Unleash the power of process__Kjetil Trædal Thorsen__Snøhetta

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Unleash the power of process__Kjetil Trædal Thorsen__Snøhetta
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Unleash the power of process__Kjetil Trædal Thorsen__Snøhetta

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Good design often reveals what we do not know we need. But such a feat depends not only on what we tweak and improve, says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, but how we re-imagine the process. The question is: where to start?

In this episode, the co-founder of the Norway-based Snøhetta discusses their unique approach, one that has kept it relevant for over three decades since its inception in 1989. With nine studios globally, the firm offers consultancy in architecture, landscape, interiors, art, as well as product design, graphic and digital design.

Snøhetta is a thought leader in the design space not just for the diversity of services it offers but also for the way these are brought together at the drawing board. “Transdisciplinary” may be a buzzword elsewhere but here, it is anchored to a process that produces out-of-the-box solutions.

Episode outline

00:03:23 Carbon neutrality
00:05:33 “You have two screws, stainless steel, exactly the same, one produced by this energy source and the other one by this. And you have to know the difference. […] If you look at the millions and millions of products out there, it’s a huge job.”
00:07:49 “High energy consumption buildings are going to fall in price and good performative buildings are going to increase in price compared to the two.”
00:10:13 Integration
00:11:05 “We have ‘Idea Work’, which is a workshop methodology where we try to get the specialists of different professions around the table and then ask them to leave their professions. We call this method ‘transpositioning.’”
00:19:55 Carbon-neutral buildings
00:23:16 “They (engineers) don’t want to promise something you can’t deliver. So they’re conservative.”
00:26:15 “Beauty is a deep and kind of humanistic driver. There are simply things that make you feel better, simply by looking at them than others.”
00:29:21 “Relational is beautiful. It has this inherent beauty in it, simply because it matches. It brings together.”
00:43:35 Becoming Kjetil
00:47:52 “The Nordic model is not a model for the world. It’s too demanding. There’s too much of everything. It’s too utopian. I think we have to find a different model.”

Summary

Snøhetta has made explicit commitments to a deep carbon target. Each project the firm designs must perform at the highest levels. This ambition translates to energy-positive goals and reliance on renewable technologies such as solar.

To be carbon-neutral, however, a project’s operational carbon emissions — say, energy in use — must offset its embodied carbon — say, materials, assembly, demolition — over its lifetime. This is a complex computation that relies on performance and auditing.

Kjetil Trædal Thorsen is a co-founding partner of the architecture, landscape, interiors and brand design office Snøhetta and leads their work in Oslo, Norway.
© Snøhetta

To attain this deep target and still produce good architecture, Kjetil and his teams seek paradigm-shifting forms and typologies. Snøhetta pushes integration of the design process a notch higher with the concept of “transpositioning.”

In this approach, stakeholders are asked to break away from their roles to wear the other’s hat. This exercise forces the team to step out of its comfort zone at the very start of the project and to defy orthodox thinking.

By implementing a collection of subtle yet powerful measures, like the elimination of curbs, removal of site clutter and introduction of sculpted granite benches, Snøhetta has dramatically transformed the pedestrian experience within Times Square.
© Michael Grimm / Snøhetta

The result of transpositioning is that it sometimes difficult in a Snøhetta building to know where, for instance, architecture ends and urbanism begins. Case in point, the Opera House in Oslo breaks free of the conventional typology of cultural buildings as standalone structures. It does this by blurring the boundaries between public space, landscape and built form.

The large roofscape above the Opera House serves as a social space where visitors can enjoy the skyline or peek into the building. It positions the visitor at the interface of scales, simultaneously on the building and in the city.

The Oslo Opera House, designed by Snøhetta, is part of the capital’s revitalisation strategy to redevelop its historically industrial waterfront into an active public space.
© Helge Skodvin / Snøhetta
Like the roof plaza, the lobby of the Oslo Opera House is keyless and the visitors have been free to roam its spaces at all hours since the building opened in 2008.
© Erik Berg / Snøhetta

Snøhetta is a torchbearer for carbon-neutral thinking. Its proposal for Powerhouse Telemark in Porsgrunn sets a benchmark for office buildings in Norway.

The annual net energy consumption of Telemark is 70% less than other newly constructed offices. Using the photovoltaics on its roof, it generates more energy than it will use in its lifetime.

As part of the Powerhouse series, Powerhouse Telemark sets a new standard by reducing its yearly net energy consumption by 70% compared to similar new-construction offices.
© Ivar Kvaal / Snøhetta
The building’s striking 24° tilted roof gently slopes to surpass the extremities of the building’s volume, expanding the roof’s surface and ensuring a maximum amount of solar energy can be harvested both from the photovoltaic canopy and the building’s PV-cell clad south-facing facade.
© Ivar Kvaal / Snøhetta

A performative approach, says Kjetil, may lead to unconventional aesthetics. And these out-of-the-box buildings sometimes face criticism for the way they look.

Here, he argues that an unpacking of ‘beauty’ is important; its definition changes over time. If we can avoid pigeonholing to styles and isms of architecture, we begin to see that a building is beautiful because it has a purposeful relationship with the world around it, natural or man-made.

Snøhetta is on the frontlines of sustainability because it seeks the integration of performance and beauty, and in the process, alters expectations of both. The firm’s work underscores the difference between invention – the tweaking of solutions that exist – and innovation – new ideas of what the future might become.

Gallery

Images

Videos

Episode Notes

Keep reading if you want to deep dive into this interview’s content and get more out of it. You can also find out more about this episode’s guest/s and sponsor/s, and the team that put it all together.

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

As mentioned in this episode

If you heard it in this episode, we likely have a link for it right here. Click on any topics, people, buildings, places, products and/or technologies listed below to learn more about each of them.

00:03:22 “…projects coming out of Snøhetta will be carbon-neutral…”
WHAT IS A CARBON NEUTRAL BUILDING?” | NEBS (New England Building Supply)
00:05:04 “…I mean embodied energy for materials and products…”
Embodied Energy” | Archdaily
00:05:18 “…what must change in the transparency of the supply chains…”
What is a sustainable supply chain?” | SAP (System Analysis Program Development)
00:11:18 “…We call this method ‘transpositioning’…”
Transpositioning” | Snøhetta
00:24:34 “…I’ve worked on a net-zero energy building in Singapore…”
Singapore’s first net-zero energy building is all about climate-responsive architecture” | Architectural Digest / India
00:24:38 “…in order to be positive, net positive…”
Net Positive Energy Buildings” | BarrierEnergy
00:03:22 “…projects coming out of Snøhetta will be carbon-neutral…”
Snøhetta
00:11:05 “…We have ‘Idea Work’, which is a workshop…”
Idea Work: Unlocking Everyday Creativity” | Snøhetta
00:20:53 “…we started together with Skanska…”
Skanska
00:48:13 “…Your partner, Craig Dykers, who I met…”
Craig Dykers” | Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
00:16:03 “…for a lot of people who come to Oslo…”
Oslo” (Norway) | Britannica
00:17:55 “…say from the library in Alexandria…”
Alexandria” (Egypt) | Britannica
00:20:17 “…and we’re exporting it out of Norway…”
Norway” | Britannica
00:22:15 “…especially in the Nordic region…”
Nordic countries” | Britannica
00:24:34 “…I’ve worked on a net-zero energy building in Singapore…”
Singapore” | Britannica
00:48:08 “…You won the competition for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt…”
Egypt” | Britannica
00:49:27 “…a complete glass house… in Cairo…”
Cairo” (Egypt) | Britannica

There are no design features for this episode.

00:44:43 “…with the wind turbines…”
wind turbine” | Britannica

Host
Nirmal Kishnani

Producer
Maxime Flores

Managing editor
Kruti Choksi Kothari

Senior communications executive
Sana Gupta

Senior editor
Tyler Yeo

Art director
Alexander Melck | Phlogiston

Sound technician and editor
Kelvin Brown | Phlogiston

Video editors
Guellor Muguruka | Phlogiston
Madelein Myburgh | Phlogiston

Graphic designer
Stian van Wyk | Phlogiston

 

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