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It was catapulted to prominence in 1989 when Craig Dykers and Kjetil Thorsen, the former in Los Angeles and the latter in Norway, won the commission for The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the much-heralded revival of the original Library of Alexandria in Egypt.
When Dykers got the call he had just stepped out of the shower, and after receiving the life-changing news he ran out onto his front lawn naked in triumph.
“We try to understand each project on its own merits but what’s important is we don’t want to feel we’re making highly expensive tailored clothing for a few very wealthy individuals,” he says.
“We are trying to promote the sensibility in our spaces that you feel you are part of a wider society and that your understanding of the world is changing.
Our minds demand it.” There are several stories that are attached to Snøhetta.
It grew out of a group of likeminded architects who met above the Dovrehallen beer hall in Oslo.
We used to go just for the sake of climbing but now it’s got to have more meaning.” He says this almost wistfully, sat in what will be the studio’s new Manhattan base.
The US office was set up in 2004 after Snøhetta was chosen to create the pavilion on the World Trade Center site; since then they’ve added studios in San Francisco, Austria, Singapore, France and Australia, employing 160 staff working across architecture, landscapes, interiors and branding.
“For thousands of years everything was passed back and forwards through storytelling and that doesn’t disappear.
This is also why he loves platforms like Instagram where he can see how visitors actually react to Snøhetta’s creations.
“To see raw footage coming out of people’s interests is a great tool.
“Cultural baggage is a hard thing to manage,” he continues, although he points out it’s been a part of Snøhetta from the start (as a collective based between California and Norway working on a library in Egypt).
“When you sit across a table from someone and say, ‘This is how I learned to do it and this is the right way,’ and the other person says, ‘Well this is how I learned to do it and this is the right way,’ suddenly you realise maybe neither of you are correct.”The diversity of the workforce mirrors the breadth of the projects it’s worked on, from the redesign of Times Square to a new dolls’ house, Norwegian banknotes to the Oslo Opera House.