Snøhetta is a practice that I have been keeping a close eye on since that start of my design education back in 2011. Since their founding in 1989, Snøhetta has focused on a multidisciplinary collaboration between architecture and landscape architecture that have allowed them to design projects of remarkable impact. During the Spring Semester of 2017, I had the opportunity to attend talks from two leaders at Snøhetta, Michelle Delk, Landscape Architecture Director, and Craig Dykers, Founding Partner. I will discuss both talks in a two part series. [Part 01]
It is always interesting to hear the description of a practice from the perspective of an employee vs that of a founder. As you get a sense of passion as a career from Michelle Delk, I truly got a sense of passion as ownership from Craig Dykers. Dykers presented about Snøhetta as if it were one of his children. The love of what the firm can do and the impact it has made and can make going forward was evident throughout this talk. The talk titled “Habitat: Large and Small” focuses on Snøhetta’s main design philosophy of People/ Process/ Projects in that order. Craig makes the argument that everything an architect or designer does is for the interaction of people with the environment and they should be the main focus of each design process.
This was the case with one of Craig’s and Snøhetta first and longest commissions, The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. This architecture design was commissioned in 1989, when the firm started and wasn’t completed until 2001 as the process was stop and go either due to finances or political climates. Bibliotheca Alexandrina eventually became a place of knowledge and progress as multiple times it was protected by the people of Alexandria, Egypt from destruction. This is when an building transcends just architecture and represents an ideal to the people that use it.
Other projects Dykers talked about, like the Norwegian National Opera (pictured above), Ballet and National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, Tverrfjellhytta, Norwegian Wild Reindeer Pavilion, and SFMOMA Expansion, focus on the engagement of people with their sites whether for entertainment, remembrance, observation, or learning. By taking ques from the site and considering both the biotic and abiotic are what Snøhetta aims for with each project. The quote by Marshall Mcluham that Craig summarizes this point is that “The environment humans create becomes their medium for defining their role in it.”
These 2 talks were very enlightening and showed what one of the top design firms in the world values and how it goes about tackling many of the difficult projects that come its way. If Snøhetta hasn’t been on your radar of design firms you should be paying attention to, it should definitely make its way unto your list.
Image Credit: Snøhetta – Norwegian National Opera and Ballet – http://snohetta.com/projects/42-norwegian-national-opera-and-ballet