SN├ÿHETTA – Soft Contestual Approach


pubblicato su COMPASSES n16 New Talents_2012

di Maria Clara Ghia

Sn├©hetta boasts an impressive series of works around the globe, a privileged position within the international panorama, an extraordinary number of built works, enormous critical success and numerous awards, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2009 and the World Architecture Award for Best Cultural Building in 2002 and 2008.

Founded in Oslo in 1989 by Craig Dykers and Kjetil Thorsen, the office is now famous around the world. Sn├©hetta are involved in projects at all scales, from landscaping to interior design. A branch office in New York now accompanies the main headquarters in Oslo, and staff is comprised of approximately 100 architects and professionals from other disciplines, exploring all perspectives of design through a trans-disciplinary and collaborative approach.

Following the library in Alexandria, Egypt, the opera house in Oslo and the Olympic Art Museum in Lillehammer, the office continues to confront a range of important contexts: in New York Sn├©hetta is working between the World Trade Centre and the 11 September Memorial and Times Square on the regeneration of public spaces. In Saudi Arabia they are working for the King Abdulaziz Centre of World Culture and in Oman on the Mutrah Fish Market.

In San Francisco, instead, Sn├©hetta are the authors of the addition to the Museum of Modern Art, designed by Mario Botta in 1995. Botta ‘s large black and white eye will receive a hyper-technological, brilliant backdrop, a gigantic spaceship that only with great difficulty finds space in San Francisco. The new wing of the Museum will host educational programmes, live performances, exhibitions and art collections. The intent is that of increasing mobility and communication between the Museum and the city via free public galleries that work as an extension of the spaces of the city, ramps that connect the Museum with the surrounding streets and new entrances offering accessibility from all directions. The use of glass, outdoor terraces and the new sculpture garden will render the building permeable and interconnected with its surroundings.

The same idea of design can also be found in two other ‘spaceships ‘ by Sn├©hetta: the Umea Kulturveven and the Bergen National Academy of the Arts. Buildings designed as catalysts of activities and mobility, instruments for reconnecting entire zones of the city with ramps, permeable internal/external areas and large glass walls.

Perhaps Sn├©hetta ‘s most recognisable work is the 2011 pavilion for the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre in Dovre, Norway: an information and observation point in a marvellous corner of Dovrefjell National Park. The relationship with the landscape becomes the hinge of the entire project. This steel and glass parallelepiped, the maximum of purity and transparency, contains a soft heart in organic wood-clad forms that recall the Vilipuri Auditorium by Alvar Aalto from 1935. Sn├©hetta has highlighted the maximum sustainability of the intervention. The apparent simplicity of this project is, however, the result of elevated levels of technical rigour: the maintenance of the wood surfaces will be carried out by a large, sophisticated device controlled by 3D software.

Attentive technological research is an indisputable element of any work by Sn├©hetta. The impression is that the office is moving towards formal results obtained though the use of efficient information systems, generating consensus among critics and of interest to the media. The risk is that they will make the same mistakes as other famous archistars: dotting the planet with easily recognisable architectural objects, with similar styles, materials, forms and techniques of realisation. Objects that are not always capable of dialoguing with the cities in which they are constructed, or of improving living conditions in their surrounding contexts.

It is my sincerest hope that the office has, instead, the intelligence to continue its research, without closing its language within a sterile, self-referential monologue.

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