Sigurd Larsen – A Danish Design Story

As an architect from Denmark the 39 year old Sigurd Larsen is one of the most asked designers for sustainable houses and furnitures. With his team in Berlin, he designs sustainable and timeless projects. Protocol of a conversation.

Hello Sigurd, tell us who you are and what are you doing?

I am an architect, so I design houses and accompany the building process from the idea to the execution. I studied architecture in Copenhagen and in Denmark it is a tradition that architecture is the main term for everything from furniture design to urban planning. It means that when I do a project with my team, we don’t just do the house, we also do the land and special furniture.

What is your main focus, your punchline for selling yourself?

I don’t really have a direct punchline, a slogan. Every project I do builds its own little world. Of course, I first have to look at all the framework conditions such as terrain, specifications and so on. Having to stick to a very specific slogan makes it much harder to work freely and creatively and to design unique and special products.

Talking about sustainable style. What is yours?

I try to avoid adopting a style, because as an architect and designer you have to evolve over the years. However, it is true that the first few projects you do either define or at least shape the style that follows.
In my team, for example, we worked a lot with wood right from the start – partly because we had to, since we built the first houses in Denmark, for example, and that was the requirement. Then you are quickly perceived as an expert and the next projects came from people who wanted to work with someone who had already worked with wood.

© Sigurd Larsen / THE GREEN HOUSE in Lejre, Denmark, designed by Sigurd Larsen (2017)

What is your inspiration?

The main inspiration is the framework conditions, i.e. the clients’ wishes and the countries’ specifications. Like back then in Denmark, a new house has to be made of wood. The creative playground is then just the space between these specifications.

Should design always be sustainable?

Yes, I think there is no other way. We also see this in the countries where we build. Every year new, more sustainable regulations and laws are introduced. What we would have called an eco-house in the past is already the standard in some countries. Renewable energies, such as solar panels, have to be included in every new house in Greece, for example.

What does sustainable design mean to you?

When it comes to sustainability for architects, at the top of the agenda is that it should last a long time. We, the entire building sector, use an incredible amount of materials and that simply creates a lot of waste. It would be bad if a building only lasted 30 years. Of course, we try to produce as little waste as possible and, when we build something, we want it to last for at least 300 years. For that, of course, we have to build well and use good materials.

© Soeren Lars / Treetop Hotel Løvtag in Mariager Fjord, Denmark, designed by Sigurd Larsen (2018)

In other words, sustainable design is also timeless design. How do you know what will still be beautiful and up-to-date in 300 years?

As an architect and designer, I think it’s totally okay to make and design what we need and find beautiful today, in 2021. We design something that is precisely tailored to our needs today. Of course, also with the hope that the need won’t change so quickly. We can also prepare our buildings to be adaptable in the future.
What makes design timeless, I think, is a rather reduced design that is also of such high quality that it can last for a long time.

What criteria do you use to select materials?

Here, it’s primarily about durability, so it’s also about the materials lasting as long as possible. Basically, every material, whether wood or concrete, is perishable, and if we’re talking about periods of 200 to 500 years, then the materials should actually last naturally at all times and still look good.
One good characteristic of wood, for example, is that depending on the quality and type, it can become more beautiful over time and you can plan with this in mind at the design stage. Many artificial materials are usually only beautiful for the first ten years, then they start to deteriorate.
In my opinion, the future of architecture belongs to wood. It is one of the best materials we have and has excellent sustainable properties. There is more research and discovery going on than with any other material in the last 500 years of architecture.

© Sigurd Larsen / THE MOUNTAIN HOUSE in Oberschlierbach, Austria, designed by Sigurd Larsen (2019)
© Sigurd Larsen / THE MOUNTAIN HOUSE in Oberschlierbach, Austria, designed by Sigurd Larsen (2019)

How do people recognize sustainable design?

Sustainable design in particular is not necessarily recognizable, and I think that’s totally okay. It’s almost standard now that sustainable, local or fair materials are used everywhere. It will become normal and that’s a good thing.

Finally, a quick question: What was your favorite sustainable furniture project?

We once designed a piece of furniture for the Hornbach DIY store and only gave out the instructions. So the customers got the materials themselves and built the piece of furniture themselves. Most of them built a special and deep relationship with it, which also makes it sustainable again, because you respect your piece of furniture and will probably keep it for a very long time.

by Maximilian Immer

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