A Uniform VisionA Conversation with Norm Architects
The architects also spend countless hours conceptualising the way light moves and feels within a space. “The amount of daylight that comes into a space can create the right mood, and bring nature inside,” says Jonas. “Our aim every time we begin a project is to create a space that feels warm, welcoming, and human, even before a single piece of furniture goes in. This is achieved through the way it’s constructed, and how the materials feel.”
Norm Architects is more than simply an architecture studio; aside from an impressive portfolio of residential architecture work, the firm frequently engages in commercial interiors, industrial design, photography, graphics, and art direction. Cofounders Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen and Kasper Rønn do not consider these varied channels as hindrances to a uniform vision, however; rather, they see the advantages of functioning as a multidisciplinary design brand. “We gain a lot from engaging in such a wide range of disciplines,” says Jonas. “When we are designing, for example, we think very much like architects, and we are very analytical. And because we also do interiors, the way we think about architectural landscapes is different from our colleagues; we think about the smaller details.”
When Norm Architects was formally established in 2008, Jonas and Kasper had already been working together for over a decade in Copenhagen. These high school friends, had been working at a petrol station and an institution for the differently abled people, before ending up at the office of Danish designer Ole Palsby. “Kasper was there for five years; I was there for eight,” says Jonas. “And that was where we got our informal education as designers.”
Nods to Danish designers such as Palsby and Poul Kjærholm permeate the firm’s distinct and highly acclaimed work. A prominent feature is Jonas and Kasper’s use of geometric purity. “In all of our work, we start off with basic geometry – squares, circles, triangles. It’s universally grounded, so the products that come out in the end are simple yet appeal to everyone regardless of their cultural influence,” says Jonas. The architects also spend countless hours conceptualising the way light moves and feels within a space. “The amount of daylight that comes into a space can create the right mood, and bring nature inside,” says Jonas. “Our aim every time we begin a project is to create a space that feels warm, welcoming, and human, even before a single piece of furniture goes in. This is achieved through the way it’s constructed, and how the materials feel.”
Simplicity, clarity, and timelessness are values that resonate deeply. “When we started the company, we chose the name ‘Norm’ to go against what was in vogue. We wanted to do something that was based on established norms and standards that have been refined for millennia,” Jonas explains, “something that can stand the test of time, something we can be proud of in 10 or 20 years.” In the digital age, where ideas and aesthetics are shared seamlessly and instantaneously, Jonas and Kasper strive toward universality, incorporating influences from across the globe. “Even though we are very influenced by traditional Japanese architecture, neither one of us has ever been to Japan,” says Jonas. “Style and a sense of aesthetics are no longer connected to a specific region. It’s not about being in a physical place anymore. Inspiration travels easily, so it’s much more about taking ideas from all parts of the world.”
The duo is working extensively with Scandinavian furniture and accessories brand Menu as designers and lead advisors. “Menu was one of the first companies we did design work for when we started in 2008,” says Jonas of the partnership between the two firms. “We developed one product for them that became a huge success, and we continued to work with them until they approached us and asked if we wanted to be design directors.” Upon accepting the position, Jonas and Kasper travelled the world in search of new collaborators, including both established design studios and young and emerging talent, who shared the same aesthetic vision for the direction for Menu’s future trajectory. “In a relatively short time span, we have completely rebranded the company and made a powerful statement in terms of Scandinavian design,” says Jonas.
Paradoxically, the remarkable success of Norm Architects has prompted the company to downsize. While Norm once boasted 10 full time employees, the company now consists of only the two founding partners and Linda Korndal, head of architectural and interior projects. “There was a point when Kasper and I were only in meetings, writing e-mails, and taking care of employees, and we looked forward to getting the weekends off,” says Jonas. “So we made a quick decision and decided to take on less, but do it ourselves and wake up every morning loving our jobs.” The pair is now personally invested in each of the studio’s projects, with consistency across all their diverse undertakings. Jonas’s home, having undergone multiple renovations whilst experimenting with new materials and techniques, is a testament to how his work a joy and a hobby. “My home is a laboratory for new ideas. I need to look at things for a time and ask, ‘Is this still interesting after seeing it for a couple of months?’” says Jonas. “In order to do a really good job, I need to do something I love.”