How Space Copenhagen Unites Food, Furniture And Design In Their Projects For Noma Restaurant And Stellar Works
Founded in 2005 by Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou, the studio is the creative mastermind behind the interiors of the first Noma restaurant (which they redesigned in 2012 and featured their Stellar Works Rén furniture collection) and 108 Restaurant (also by acclaimed chef Rene Redzepi) in Copenhagen, as well as a slew of haute venues in the Danish capital.
“What the chefs aim to do is very finely balanced with how we perceive design; there’s a certain honesty, directness of natural materials and resources,” quips Rützou, explaining the intricacies of combining each restaurant’s culinary philosophy with its design concept. As the fame of these restaurants grew, so did the studio’s international acclaim.
To date, the studio has worked on nearly 350 projects, including furniture collections as well as interiors for retail stores and hotels such as the renovation of the Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Copenhagen; the iconic hotel was first designed by Arne Jacobsen for the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) in 1960.
We met the dynamic duo at the Galleria Teatro Manzoni in Milan, the venue of Behind the Scenes, an exhibition that showcased furniture from Stellar Works and Agapecasa during Milan Design Week. The duo took us down memory lane, sharing with us the early beginnings of their multidisciplinary practice and how their collaboration with Stellar Works began.
What inspired your decision to start a studio together?
Signe Bindslev Henriksen (SBH) We were both at architecture school (at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts) at a time when it was no longer very common to be interested in the interior surfaces, furniture and all the other components of the spatial experience. We felt this mutual passion in wanting to define the space and also to draw all the small details within the space together; as a way to guide the atmosphere and the social experience within the space. That fascination with detail and craft was something we bonded over from the very beginning.
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Could you describe your design philosophy?
SBH We name our philosophy “Poetic Modernism”. That’s sort of our headline; the words we feel relate to the work we do. It has this intuitive layer, which is felt by the body rather than the mind. And then there are all the functional components that are natural ingredients in how design inspires.
Peter Bundgaard Rützou (PBR) We tend to go back to working with natural materials. We love wood, stone, leather; all things that have the ability to show some notion of time. We try to direct our design towards “slow aesthetics”; this understanding of something that ages with grace, that grows better over time when it gets touched and used; that grows a sense of personality.
How did your collaboration with Stellar Works begin?
PBR We were introduced to Yuichiro Hori (founder of Stellar Works) in Milan eight years ago; he had a huge appetite for Danish furniture from the ‘40s to ‘60s. That combination of both Asian and Scandinavian influences was the formula for our relationship with Stellar Works. We could identify motifs that resonate with both cultures and create pieces born out of that philosophy.
One of the huge advantages of working with Stellar Works is that they have their own factory. Our first collection with Stellar Works was a very intense period. We arrived in Asia with a bunch of sketches and were at the factory for 10 days. We would talk about the designs and we would change the details, and each morning, the factory had produced a new detail; a new chair, or the corner of a table. Having the ability to translate the drawing into craft immediately was a really motivating way of keeping momentum in the design process.
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What is the inspiration behind your new collections for Stellar Works?
PBR It seems as if we’re trying to create a house. We’re slowly moving through all the types of furniture you need in a home. There’s another common denominator in all the pieces; we try to make them look very sculptural. When you look at the shelving system, it sounds rigid as a typology, but a shelving system is also a spatial divider. You should be able to look at it from a 360-degree angle and think that it’s a beautifully proportioned piece of design.
SBH We love the idea of the Dawn bed, which is beautiful in structure in its own right but also has softness so that you don’t hit your knees when you get on the bed. This series comes with side tables and the floating headboard can be changed as it’s the part that gets the most dirty. We try to merge all the things that we felt that were needed for a bed.
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Which are the materials that you enjoy working with the most?
PBR We have a recurring appetite for natural materials: how you can change them, how you can utilise their qualities. Technology is also getting to the point where it’s allowed to merge with natural materials. There are certain new things you can do to a stone and what you can use it for.
SBH In the past few years, we became more conscious about using local materials where we work. We feel a very natural need to use Asian wood and stone when we work in Asia; when we work in Belgium, we use Belgian stone and linen, et cetera. All these things make sense for the project and the environment.
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What are your future plans for the studio?
PBR We have been feeling this growing urge to go back to doing architecture. Hopefully in the next few years, you’ll see residential projects from us and these are certainly something we’re hoping to do more of.
SBH We’re working a lot in Asia, the US and different places in Europe. While doing that, our immediate goal within the next couple of years is to crystallise a lot of new furniture designs within these projects. We love when products are born from a project; when they get a story from (being custom-made for) that specific identity of that space and location. For now, we feel very humbled and happy that we’re allowed to do a lot of amazing projects.