The Architect’s Newspaper recently did a studio visit with Studio Other Spaces, the architect’s office established by sculptor Olafur Eliasson and his architect-collaborator Sebastian Behmann in 2014. Behmann has collaborated with Eliasson and his research team since 2001 on numerous high-profile projects, and they have just completed Fjordenhus (Fjord House), their first entirely in-office building. The architecture studio, like many offices today, claims to “pursues a research-based approach to the production of space that seeks to expand the established architectural vocabulary.” But unlike many new firms, this studio has already produced a strong body of built work (though these were done alongside established architecture firms). Fjordenhus is a 92-foot-tall office building which sits literally in the water of a disused dock in a fjord in Vejle, Jutland (Denmark) for their client Kirk Kapital.
This building project builds on Olafur Eliasson’s history as an artist and claims to be a “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk) and comes as close as any recent building project to achieving that claim. They have designed nearly every aspect of the building, including the windows, doors, carpets, glass, furniture, lighting and of course, the art works. Constructed, for example primarily of unglazed brick it was chosen because it is “the smallest possible building unit” and allows for the organic shape of the building. They also argue that Fjordenhus’ intricate brickwork seen from afar “seems orderly” but upon closer inspection, “the different shapes and slightly irregular staggering of the bricks’ depth reveals a lively, organic surface.” Moreover, additional colors of glazed bricks are “integrated into its carved-out sections to produce color fades–green from the bottom and blue from the top–that reflect the water and sky.” Given the firm’s intense interest in materials from their previous art projects, “every corner, niche, and arc required an individual brick-laying solution; each brick was specially fit into the complex curvature of the concrete walls, the overall brickwork lying flush with the curved steel frames and glass elements of the facade.”
Further, Fjordenhus art works don’t so much sit in the space but are designed into the building itself, and include light “installations” like Fjordhvirvel, which encircles Fjordenhus, Undervandsforventning and Den indre “that visually link the lower and upper spaces and create a formal dialogue between the curvature of the building, the daily cycles of the fjord, and the arc of the sun’s path across the sky.”
The building is a double shell of local Danish brick that forms “four intersecting cylinders” from which volumes have been carved out to create complex curved, circular, and elliptical forms, torqueing walls and parabolic arches, windows and openings.
As the building sits in the water, it is accessible by a footbridge into a double-height ground floor, which is open to the public and is “permeated by the fjord and contains two aqueous zones.” The upper three floors are offices for Kirk Kapital and varying floor plans are on different levels and are organized around circles and ellipses, with specially designed furniture and lights, and are connected by spiral staircases and round vestibules.
The Gesamtkunstwerk notion might be considered a dated one for architects, but with this firm, coming as it does from the world of art, it has a different idea about how to think about buildings, conceive of space and design walls and facades. There are currently other art practices like Thomas Heatherwick’s moving into architectural design, but none have created as convincing a work of architecture as Fjordenhus.
Fjordenhus – first building by Olafur and his architectural team includes site specific art works, furniture and lighting. https://t.co/IW5v3KLc4k@WACommunity @archpaper @ArchDigest @designboom @dezeen @fubiz @frieze_magazine @Curbed @tomravenscroft @archinect @ArchDaily pic.twitter.com/Pstk1N5sYN
— StudioOlafurEliasson (@olafureliasson) June 7, 2018