In conversation with Kin’s architect
We asked Norwegian architect Lars Beller Fjetland to share his insights on various topics. Read along and get a glimpse inside his mind.
Q: You allow the quality of the material to dictate both the function and aesthetics of the design, and you strive to create objects with a sense of both timelessness and longevity. The natural world, fauna in particular, has been a recurring element in your work with figures. Kin, while remaining true to the principles of your design philosophy, seems somehow far from that natural world. Where does the inspiration for the figures come from?
A: The inspiration for the Kin collection came in several stages and were a generous mix of visual, tactile and emotional references that I gathered over several years.
I launched a series of turned wooden birds back in 2012 which were surprisingly well received, and it left me with a strong desire to create something new and even more challenging. This marked the beginning of the search for a suitable concept to work around.
Q: When did you make the first sketch and prototype?
A: I had my first real Eureka moment in 2015 when I stumbled across some traditional Kokeshi dolls while doing research for another project. I was immediately drawn to their formal simplicity and their highly expressive hand painted faces. The oversized heads balanced so perfectly on the cylindrical bodies giving these dolls an unmistakable visual signature. I knew right there and then that this would be the starting point for my next big endeavour.
The following years were spent occasionally revisiting the idea while constantly working on the design and detailing. I was touring a lot of factories in Europe, gradually gaining a deeper understanding of serial production and wooden machinery. It became evident that I needed to partner with a true specialist to see these designs come to life.
Most of the tests and prototypes that I developed on my own were 3D printed. I fully embraced this technology during the development stage as it provided me the opportunity to perfectly define every last detail. The overall form of the figurines was first turned in oak and then digitalised. It is important to note that you need to see and feel the object in its true materials to be able to get it right. Working in this scale even a millimetre added or subtracted has huge consequences for the overall look and feel of the object.
Becoming a father in 2017 inspired me to complete the project. I reached out to ARCHITECTMADE in January 2018. I did have my doubts on whether or not the designs were too complicated to produce, but all doubt was cast aside when I got to inspect the first prototypes. Perfection!
Q: Legendary workshops, leading design brands brought your ideas to life. What makes you choose to collaborate with a company and what makes a collaboration successful? What would you say that is special about your collaboration with ARCHITECTMADE?
A: Some might say that I tend to be picky when it comes to collaborations, and there could be some truth to this. To me it’s important to work with companies and people that possess certain skillsets or knowledge that separates them from the rest of the industry; Companies with an edge. This increases the chances of being able to develop something innovative and unique.
Entering the world of design as a collector, I always try to view my own work in a design historical context, and it has undoubtedly affected my decisions concerning who I choose to work with. I also choose to work with people that I like. It might sound silly, but I find this to be an absolute. My experience is that I simply perform better when I’m surrounded by people that trust me and that are giving the project the right amount attention it needs to be successful.
Q: You always make sure that your products are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Sustainability and responsibility are a big part of your work. And it’s something that you and ARCHITECTMADE share somehow. Our commitment towards sustainability is rooted in our core business, which identified the guiding values for all its employees and business partners worldwide. Can you tell us more about your approach to that, and the relation that has with the companies you choose to work with?
A: Working with ARCHITECTMADE has been an amazing experience. Since the very first meeting I felt like the company really understood the message that I wanted to convey with the project and its importance. Through our conversations I quickly realised that we both shared the same core values related to timelessness and sustainability. It is rare that you find a company that is so genuinely dedicated to pursuing their own path, untainted and incorruptible. I truly admire that. I also admire your unwillingness to compromise on the design. Kin series was realised exactly as I had imagined it.
Q: There is a lot of talking nowadays about sustainability, responsibility and such. And it seems almost like it has become a “trend”. There is no authenticity in the way some companies and so-called professionals use those words.
A: The once powerful term “sustainable” has lost a lot of its potency. Language and labels are powerful tools when it comes to marketing, and it is inevitable that these terms eventually become exploited to confuse and mislead consumers. This being said I refuse to lose faith in the consumers and hope that they will become more informed as climate change becomes the most pressing issue on the global agenda.
Q: You live in Norway where you grew up and you developed the essential elements of your work: the fascination for functional design and the power of natural materials. You travel a lot and constantly strive to broaden your horizons, look for new experiences and collaborations out of the so-called “Nordic” countries. Italy, for example: Salone del Mobile in 2012, which looks like was a pivotal moment in your career; The collaboration with the legendary workshop Bottega Ghianda; just to mention a few. Are there any other countries you’re taking a look at driven by some special interest or curiosity at the moment? Or a city that you consider vibrant and creative?
A: Being a complete foodie, it might not come as a surprise that Italy holds a special place in my hearth. To be fair it not just the food, it’s the culture, the landscape and the people. It is also a country with amazing production capabilities, where projects usually are met with a “we can always give it a try” attitude towards the untested. Living in a country where we have more or less forgotten how to produce finished goods it’s refreshing visiting countries that have kept this knowledge alive by investing in knowledge and technology.
I love living in Norway and hope that we can reinvent ourselves as a goods producing country.
Photography: ARCHITECTMADE / Valeria Granillo
Words: Lars Beller Fjetland / ARCHITECTMADE / Valeria Granillo