Woodwork: The ARV Collection

Port discovers a new series of furniture by fifth generation designers, Brdr. Krüger, for the award-winning Danish restaurant noma

If noma is synonymous with Nordic culinary creativity, furniture maker Brdr. Krüger is a byword for beautiful Danish design. Together with another Danish institution, the renowned designer David Thulstrup, Krüger and noma have collaborated on a series of chairs and tables for the four-time winner of the World’s Best Restaurant award, as they relocate to a new restaurant in the Christianshavn neighbourhood of Copenhagen.

Head chef of noma Rene Redzepi desired comfort above all else, briefing the studios to create “a formal dining chair without having the impression of sitting on a throne.” Using traditional woven Danish paper cord to form the seat and backrest, the chair, as Redzepi says, “emphasises the craftsmanship behind the design.”. The result is an honest, balanced and understated collection, combining complex woodwork with a delicate lightness. 

Established as a woodturning company in 1886, the traditions and skills of Brdr. Krüger have been passed down through five generations to form today a balance between classic design with a contemporary approach, paying homage to and evolving its heritage. Port spoke to their creative director, Jonas Krüger, on the ARV’s aesthetics, the joys of woodwork and the role of family tradition. 

How did you balance practicality with beauty, formality with informality, for the collection?

We made no compromises to realise the vision for ARV. The ARV chair is contemporary in aesthetic, with a timeless quality. It is elegant and light, yet its signature craftsmanship accents make it incredibly tactile. While drawing on iconic traditional Danish design, it has a fresh energy and the spirit of a new generation of design. 

We sculpted the chair to form fluid curves in order to provide an optimal seating comfort. The back leg has a gentle curve and organically connects to the backrest and armrest with delicate and precise joinery. It has a certain formality and the angle of the seat sits somewhere between a dining and desk chair.

What is Brdr. Kruger’s ethos?

We combine traditional woodworking skills, a profound understanding of materials and more than 130 years expertise in modern manufacturing techniques to create innovative designs with timeless appeal. We are deeply involved with every stage of the design process and committed to a craftsmanship that we have nurtured for five generations.

Photography Joachim Wichmann

What parallels are there between Brdr. Krüger, Studio David Thulstrup and noma?  

I cannot answer on behalf of the others, but I think you can draw parallels to a fundamental premise, that we care for the end user. We see you as a guest, and more than a client. This perspective includes great care in the work that we do and that has made us good collaborators. Furthermore, we share a love for our cultural traditions, but set in a new context, with a new perspective.

Why is wood such a versatile material?

Wood has a natural beauty and is a versatile, strong material. It enables us to materialise elegant design, that is still strong enough to survive a hard environment, like a restaurant. The balance between the lean and the strong is achieved in combining our classic woodturning skills with modern technology. ARV is a great example of this – it is a classical-looking chair in oak and paper cord, but the sculpting is done partly by modern 3D controlled CNC milling as well as by hand, the traditional way. There is both beauty and modernity in this way of manufacturing wood.

Photography Joachim Wichmann

How does the London design scene compare to Denmark?  

Both cities have a vibrant design scene and are home to some of the great designers of our time. What I enjoy about coming to London is seeing the breadth of talent and international design presence – it is truly a cosmopolitan city. The pace of life in London is much quicker than it is in Copenhagen.

What role does family play in the company’s vision?

Brdr. Krüger, is a family run business – we started life as a woodturning workshop in 1886 and today are a leading, self-producing, design brand. The company is now run by myself and my sister Julie Krüger, and our parents are still involved with the business. Every piece that leaves the workshop in Denmark draws on our Danish design values and heritage but strives forward with a contemporary twist. Today we seek to bring a new turn on tradition with new and exciting talent.

Fifth generation Danish furniture maker, Brdr. Krüger will make its UK debut with ARV by Studio David Thulstrup at Coexistence, London, at the end of November. To celebrate the launch, a special installation of ARV and other Brdr. Krüger pieces will be on display at Coexistence until 14 January 2019.

Space For Living: SPACE Copenhagen

Jacob Charles Wilson meets the award-winning design duo SPACE Copenhagen to discuss their latest project – the renovation Arne Jacobsen’s iconic Radisson Blue Royal Hotel

Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou have known each other since their years studying architecture at the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. They first set up their own rival design firms before joining together in 2005 to work as SPACE Copenhagen, designing  furniture and interiors for private clients, hotels, and restaurants including the world renowned noma, Geranium, and Geist. We met at Copenhagen’s Atelier September to talk on how they came to work together, their thoughts on space and materiality, and their recent project renovating the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Copenhagen – designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1956 today recognised as a singular masterpiece of mid-century architecture in a city of discerning tastes.

Taking a look through your projects, you’ve worked for restaurants as well as private residences, why did you start taking on these projects? 

SBH: Twenty years ago in Copenhagen there was an amazing wave of new young chefs who were in their own kitchens, doing their own thing, bringing in new ideas, and becoming more ambitious about changing the scene. Back then, when you came out of architecture school, you’d go to a big firm and you’d aim to do large scale architecture – nobody else was interested in paying attention to retail spaces and furniture design. So, we started our own companies and we were each other’s best competitors for many years because there was noone else.

PBR: This juxtaposition between the small details and the abstract space was something that’s found in great masters and I think the whole impact of what made Danish design famous also became a complex for a whole generation – how do you move from that? That’s one of the most interesting things about restaurants – more than anything they’re a social experience. Whatever you do with it is a reading of that social activity. So it’s a psychological reading translated into design and eventually into space, and that’s just really exciting.

What does it mean to you to approach and reimagine Arne Jacobsen’s icon of both the city and of Danish mid-century design?

SBH: Well it’s obviously a great honour – in many ways Arne Jacobsen was one of our icons while studying, and he was one of the best examples of actually completing a whole universe from the door handle to the entire building, and the process of storytelling involved in that. There’s this very fixed image of what Danish design is, and when you actually look back and look at Jacobsen’s work compared to Finn Juhl, to Carl Hansen, to all the great masters, they’re extremely playful, they’re very inspired by the outside world, they travelled a lot, with inspiration from Japan and Africa and the US. So we felt that we were lucky that it was someone like him, who had a vibrant open mind.

PBR: When you get started you look very carefully at the design and you realise it was indeed a very different time. You have to look back to the social structure that defines the architecture; first of all the building was actually the hotel and check-in terminal for Scandinavian Airlines. Something we thought about is that people want to have all kinds of experiences at hotels folded into one, we no longer differentiate sharply between one space or another. In this case, because the lobby is so huge, it’s an open space relationship between a lot of different activities. It was a challenge, but it also makes the site fun, it’s like a puzzle, you need to crack it somehow.

Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou

What is the experience you want to give people who stay in the space and feel the materials

SBH: It’s a part of the story that’s difficult to show now – a lot of our work was also trying to bring back the original building – a lot of construction has been going on here and there in the hotel for the past 50 years, so a lot of the work was just tripping off layers of things that hiding the beautiful old building, trying to restore the floors, trying to bring back the beautiful windowsills in the rooms, little things that you won’t really see unless you know how it was years back.

PBR: Another aspect of the building is the fact that it’s the only highrise in Copenhagen. It’s such a horizontal city – through all of the 20th century we’ve had this restriction of five floors within the inner city. So, you go to this building and all of a sudden you see the city as a cityscape, it’s just really beautiful. Every room has a view, and there’s just nothing else like it in the city.

SBH: When people enter the room they go straight for the window and look out, it’s what everyone intuitively does. The view is mindblowing, it’s so rare that you actually see the city from that angle, it has an almost dreamlike feel.

So what’s the experience you intended people to have entering this space?

SBH: The staircase was very important for the layout studies we did. We created this stretch of round ceiling alcoves which reflect this beautiful staircase feature. You get a sense of how the space is laid out, with the bar on one side and the restaurant on another. The circle was an important feature for Arne, throughout the whole project. The skylights, the floor, the balcony skylights and the ceiling. He uses the ground staircases and the ground pillars that define the overall structure. Small circular designs on the door. As Peter said, you have the masculinity, but paired with the softer elements, the organic feel and materials.

Do you see this project as drawing from a Danish design history, or do you look further for inspiration?

SBH: We can’t escape who we are, we grew up with in this tradition; our parents and grandparents, our ten years of studying within this field – it made us. But we’ve tried to escape, to look a bit further, to not be too intimidated by it, and actually hold onto the fact that curiosity comes from being such a small country. Because, a lot of things do not get fulfilled here, so that’s why we get a total urge to go somewhere. There’s that feeling of going up a skyscraper and looking out on the world.

PBR: There’s a lot to learn from – classical architecture to art nouveau, and further back – design is something you can disappear into, just thinking how two pieces of wood fit together, and how can you translate that into a building, and whether we use it in a project or not… it’s the foundation for our inspiration. It’s having curiosity at the drawing board, knowing how to play and nurture that, how to fill yourself with opportunity and let go.

SBH: And of course it’s also daring to not fulfil people’s obvious expectations for what Danish design is…


A Moveable Feast: Noma Mexico

Whole grilled pumpkin with a kelp and avocado fudge

Inspired by Mexico’s rich food history, Copenhagen’s most famous restaurant has opened a temporary outpost in Tulum 

Noma in Copenhagen has been voted the world’s best restaurant three times. Since 2003, head chef and co-owner René Redzepi has taken an innovative approach to Nordic cuisine, with items like deep fried moss, edible flowers and ants all making appearances on the menu. While the original restaurant is relocating to Copenhagen’s Christiania neighbourhood, Redzepi has transported Noma to Tulum in Mexico for a seven week residency.
Staging successful pop-ups in Tokyo and Sydney, Redzepi and the team at Noma have been on the road for the last two years, but Noma Mexico is the third and most ambitious venture yet. Conceived as an open-air restaurant nestled between the jungle and the beach, it offers a meticulously researched tasting menu based on Mexican ingredients and traditions. For Redzepi, this was an opportunity to pay tribute to a country that has excited him for over a decade.
Noma Mexico
When the concept for Noma Mexico presented itself, Noma’s former sous chef, Rosio Sanchez, was the first person Redzepi asked to join the endeavour. She was brought up in Chicago by Mexican parents, from whom she learned a great deal about Mexican cuisine, ingredients and flavours. 
“For the last 6 months, Rosio, a small team and I have been traveling all throughout the country from Merida to Ensenada, from Oaxaca to Guadalajara, and everywhere in between,” says Redzepi. “We searched to find that special chile, to understand the seafood, to taste just a few of the infinite variations of mole, and to find inspiration in the vast and wonderful culture.”
To create new and compelling dishes, Redzepi and Sanchez also teamed up with Traspatio Maya – a nonprofit group of 15 Mayan communities situated across the Yucatan Peninsula – who provided them with hyper-local ingredients. Indigenous delicacies such as rare wild bee larva, pure sweet and sour melipona honey from the Calaukmul reserve, white naal teel corn and pumpkin seeds have been used to create an incredibly diverse 15-course menu. Other items include pinuela, tamarind, crickets, grasshoppers roasted in garlic, chile peppers, jackfruit, mangoes and Yucatan limes. Spice also appears throughout, with dishes ranging from cool masa broth with droplets of habanero oil to pasilla peppers with chocolate sorbet boiled in melipona honey. 
Noma Mexico is open until 28 May 
Photography by Jason Loucas