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The Alexandria Library, the Opera in Oslo and the Memorial Pavilion at Ground Zero in New York – even if you don’t know the name Snøhetta, you’ll know it’s buildings. Meet one of the heads behind – Norwegian architect Kjetil T. Thorsen.
Snøhetta is named after a famous mountain in Norway. From the very beginning in the 1980’s, Snøhetta’s architecture has been inspired by landscapes, both natural and urban. ”Landscapes are a massive force”, says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, co-founder and director of Snøhetta: “And they are masterpieces, which architects can be inspired by.”
Divided into five chapters based around subjects such as philosophy, working within different cultures as well as architectural responsibilities, the film is a 30 minute tour through the inner and outer landscapes of Snøhetta. Moreover, Thorsen reflects upon some of Snøhetta’s major landmarks such as the Alexandria Library, the opera house in Oslo and The 9/11 Memorial Pavilion on Ground Zero in New York.
For Snøhetta there is a strong relationship between architecture and the surrounding society. Thorsen himself is convinced that architecture and landscapes affect human behaviour. Snøhetta’s philosophy is deeply rooted in the values of the Nordic welfare state such as transparency, social sustainability, equality, availability and humanism. Through architecture these values can be exported into different societies, thus building bridges between cultures. As an example Thorsen mentions the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudia Arabia, where Snøhetta has avoided separate entrances for men and women.
Finally, Thorsen gives us an insight into the architectural process and the necessity of compromises. Especially with buildings like the 9/11-Memorial at Ground Zero in New York, the interests of different stakeholders have to be respected – not the least the victims and their families. “The effect of the compromise sometimes is a new beginning”, Thorsen states. In the end though, every project has to be within the borders of integrity. “There are things that you just don’t trade!”