An interview with Snøhetta, special guest at Euroluce
The Norwegian design and architecture studio will be one of the protagonists of the Euroluce 2023 Talks. In this conversation, Marius Myking shares Snøhetta’s vision on light design, production processes and sustainability
Snøhetta is not just a design studio: it’s a living organism that produces knowledge. “We find ourselves in a continuous state of reinvention,” explains Marius Myking, Head of Product Design. “We spend most of our time identifying meaningful projects together with our different collaborators and specialists around the world,” he continues.
Founded in Oslo in 1989 by Craig Dykers and Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, today Snøhetta has over 350 employees from more than 40 different countries, working at offices in Oslo, Paris, Innsbruck, New York, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Adelaide, Melbourne, and San Francisco. Indeed, the studio claims to be “a place nobody is from, but anyone can go to.” In this interview Marius Myking shares his vision on light, sustainability, and work processes.
Light is arguably the most important material that we work with, across all disciplines. Louis Kahn once said, “The sun never knew how great it was until it hit the side of a building.” In this sense, light impacts all our projects, materials, designs, and our emotions. Especially here in the Nordics, we have a unique relationship with natural light: completely absent during winter, and ever-present during summer. This has inevitably had an impact on our culture, history, and even global outlook. Today, it is also becoming a strong symbol for sustainability, related to energy use and saving – a constant reminder of how precious what we have is.
We have set some very ambitious sustainability goals for ourselves. We want our entire portfolio to be climate neutral by 2039. To achieve this we have a strong focus on sustainability in all our disciplines and we believe Product Design needs to play an important role to develop solutions that reflects our ambitions. Our focus for product design is to leverage the knowledge and experience across our studios and disciplines to develop informed solutions for tomorrow. To make this happen we support the companies and brands we collaborate with by connecting the dots to identify meaningful projects and opportunities that balances social, economic and environmental sustainability and production, one project at a time. At Snøhetta, we are able to approach new problems in different ways thanks to the diverse knowledge we can access from different disciplines. Design should play a bigger role in solving problems related to sustainability and as we are all facing the same big issues, we also want to be part of the digital revolution that is happening today. It is important to create data that everyone can use and to share these experiences to develop more efficient solutions. It is crucial to come together in this global effort.
That’s a question we ask ourselves all the time. We believe that good things happen when people meet: sharing knowledge is, above all, about getting to know each other and communicating. That’s why we facilitate different forms of encounter. Every eighteen months, for example, we organize a lottery in our studios where we assign seats: we can have a founder, an accountant and an intern sitting next to each other. Plus, every day at noon we have our communal lunch: a perfect moment to meet and talk. Every two years, we all share a full weekend together where we can talk about anything, except for design and architecture: the goal is to get to know each other, making it much easier to just pick up the phone, call someone in the Australia office and say, “we have this crazy idea and maybe you have some input”. Snøhetta is more of a collective intuition that we keep embracing and grow day by day. We work across projects and across our offices worldwide – for example our colleagues from Hong Kong can collaborate with those in Oslo. Having a cross-discipline approach helps us in problem solving.
Many are nervous about AI taking over designs these days, but ultimately design is about people and AI may just be the superpower we have been missing. Design knowledge is branching out into a widening variety of diverse fields, and we must continuously educate ourselves about challenges and obstacles that we didn’t see just a few years back to understand how to approach them. This also means that involving design in the entire lifecycle of any given product or any given design is more important than ever. We’d like to take part in board meetings with the companies we’re working with, to be able to promote real change. We must work and talk with politicians and legislators too, to update regulations to advance more sustainable design and production through reuse of recycled materials. Real change also means we have to try new things were some will work, some will work really well and some will also fail. Instead of being afraid of this let’s celebrate the failures as long as we learn from them.