Reiulf Ramstad Architects
By Jakob Harry Hybel
Weighty and beautifully packaged, this monograph collects the works of one of the faces of the New Nordic movement, Reiulf Ramstad Architects. First and foremost it is a wholehearted and affectionate tribute to Reiulf Ramstad and his particular brand of architecture, as well as to his commitment to what he calls his “search for beauty”.
Ramstad graduated from the Venice School of Architecture in 1995 and his works draw heavily from the extreme tactility of Carlo Scarpa as well as his fellow countryman Sverre Fehn. Despite being a relatively young firm, Reiulf Ramstad Architects (RRA) has received a considerable amount of attention, after they designed one of Norway’s most visited tourist attraction, the prize-winning tourist route, Trollstigen.
Right out of the gate, architectural critic and editor of the book, Boris Brorman Jensen, openly admits that he has been seduced and overwhelmed by Ramstad’s work and blinded by unconditional affection.
So to get a more impartial perspective, Brorman Jensen has called on renowned architectural theoretician, professor Carsten Thau of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and Dutch critic and historian Hans Ibelings, founder of the preeminent architectural magazine A10, to write contributions to the book as well.
The book is very loosely structured and does not adhere to either a consistent chronology or apparent thematic division. Therefore, the book’s three essays, the only thing that hints at a structure, are very welcome abruptions that offer different perspectives on the comprehensive body of work by RRA. Ibelings offers a socio cultural outlook, Thau takes the philosophical angle and Brorman Jensen the personal.
The texts complement each other very well, and together they give a comprehensible insight into Ramstad’s oeuvre and the trends that have influenced him.
A New Nordic Sensibility
Some years back when the Danish restaurant NOMA got worldwide attention and recognition, the term New Nordic was coined to describe their experimental yet traditional cuisine. New Nordic quickly became a trend and it spread like a firestorm.
In his essay for the book, Ibelings also draws these often before seen parallels to NOMA – but he makes a strong case as to why in the case of RAA, it is a legitimate comparison.
While the buildings of the old masters of the Nordic tradition (Utzon, Sverre Fehn and Aalto) were directly inspired in their design by nature, Reiulf Ramstad strives to make us see it in a new way, through a re-contextualization of materials.
So you could say that Ramstad, like NOMA, is looking for a new Nordic sensibility, or new ways to explore the existing.
Being a close personal friend of Ramstad, it is understandable that Brorman Jensen feels the need for full disclosure and absolves himself of the role as the objective critic – but it was not really necessary.
This book is clearly a product of deep and sincere admiration. It is as refreshing as it is rare that an architectural critic is so open and honest about his subjectivity. For that, he deserves a lot of recognition. It is a pleasure to take part in his fascination – and hard not to let it rub off.