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Helen & Hard, Stavanger, Norway

Wednesday 29 Feb 2012

Shaping experience through environment

Emile Ashley, Erieta Attali, John E Kroll, Helen & Hard 
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Helen & Hard re-engage with the subject on how to create projects 

Helen & Hard was founded in 1996 on the west coast of Norway by Siv Helene Stangeland and Reinhard Kropf. Today, with a staff of 21 drawn from 8 different countries, they have offices in both Stavanger and Oslo.

Their projects, from the smallest piece of furniture to an urban plan, draw from the specific design potential of their environment (be it physical context, available human resources, or the inherent qualities of a material). They strive to avoid imposing a formal composition over inert matter and context. Instead, Helen & Hart attempt to interconnect with the environment to achieve robust, adaptable, and unique architecture, which offers a richer and deeper experience for the user. Referring to the hierarchical levels of integration inherent in nature (for example, cells, bodies & breeds), they try to create interlocked “levels” in their projects.

Their projects can be broken down from one overall level, where the project intertwines with its context, to the most basic level, consisting of the smallest components, which constitute the project. The approach is exemplified in the Vennesla Library and Cultural Centre. Here, Helen & Hart created a sequence of structural ribs, which combine construction, technical services and programme, informing the spatial qualities of the building, as well as the way the project relates so closely to its context. The design levels are interwoven, from the urban scale right down to the details. For them, sustainability is crucial throughout the process, from embodied energy in materials, to energy expended in the design process and construction, and throughout the life of the project. 

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