Late last winter architectural photographer Marc Goodwin completed an “ultra-marathon of photoshoots in four Nordic countries. He visited twenty-eight architectural offices in twenty-eight days, spread across four capital cities – Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm.
His aim was to understand what sort of spaces architects in the Nordic countries operate in, and how they differ between each respective country. From former boathouses to stables and coal deposits, Goodwin has captured some of the most unique working environments the profession has to offer.
We interviewed Marc after his month on the road with Nordic architects.
Please tell us a little about your background and why you ended up as an architectural photographer.
I fell in love with architecture and large format photography at the same time, while studying, many years ago. It was too hard to choose, so I decided to put them both together and the rest is history. My love of travel has also meant this was a good decision.
Was it your idea to do the ultra-marathon photo tour to the Nordic countries – and why the interest for Nordic architects?
I got the idea because I had just finished two book projects that were amazing but took over two years each. I wanted to do something more compressed, and also see how it would affect my work if I were forced to produce images quickly.
As for the Nordic countries, I’ve spent the past five years in Finland. I went there initially to do a PhD and wound up getting work as a photographer. I am ready for another move, and my goal is to be based in Scandinavia and work all around the Nordics. This was a good way to spend a bit of time in different countries there and meet a lot of people very quickly.
Did your experience of the architects working conditions tell you something about their architectural work/architectural icon projects?
Yes, surprisingly, you can learn a lot by spending a day in an office. This becomes increasingly true the larger your sample size is. By the end of this journey, I felt more like a consultant sent to analyse the atmosphere of each office than a photographer sent to take nice pictures. I guess my real task lied somewhere between those two missions.
Your aim was among other things to find out if there are differences between the four countries. What is your answer to that question?
Both the architecture and the professionalism of this part of the world are very attractive to me. I think the Nordic countries are the ideal place to live and work. However, there are small differences in each city I visited. Stockholm and Copenhagen are much larger and international than the other two, so the pulse is faster and the general hustle and bustle far greater. People are used to foreigners as well, for that reason, in each. In Helsinki and Oslo, someone like myself is still something of a novelty, and people are really curious about why you are there. People are also quieter in Helsinki and Oslo.
Did you have time/opportunity to talk with the architects during your travels, and in case what did you ask about, and what were the answers?
People mainly wanted to know the same things you have asked me in this interview! I will add that the interaction with architects was as dependent on the size of the office as the country it was located in. In big offices a communications manager showed you around in a very polished, formal but friendly way. It was kind of like an official state visit. In small offices you had a cup of coffee and sat down directly with the partners who were often the only people there.
Do Nordic architects work in a different manner than architects from other parts of Europe/World – in your opinion/findings?
Yes, I lived in Spain before Finland and in the UK before that. Each is totally different. I found Spain to be the biggest challenge as a photographer. Things work through connections and there isn’t much of a meritocracy. While living in Spain most of my work was from UK architects that were building there. This was a great disappointment because there are so many Spanish architects I admire. As for the UK, it is very professional and media savvy on the whole. Unlike anywhere else I have ever worked. Although brief trips to New York and LA gave me the impression that there it was still more so, perhaps not surprisingly. Big offices in all four cities reminded me of my work in London. The smaller offices are also great to work with though because you know how personal everything is to the people you are speaking with.
Were there any memorable moments worth telling about from your tour?
There were a few disasters, such as me falling over on the ice and being sure I’d broken my equipment and cracked my skull. Luckily, neither was the case. And I got really sick, which is not surprising since it was minus ten or colder the entire month and I spent a lot of that time going from indoors to out.
I was astonished by how closely a cruise ship passed next to the Snøhetta office in Oslo. I managed to close my gaping jaw and photograph it just in time. The other surprises came from things people said.
An incredibly successful company almost dropped out of the story when I showed them pictures of their office empty with lights off.
Another big office asked how much they would have to pay to be in this story. The answer was of course, nothing.
In Norway an architect first said they shared office space because of a belief in transparency. When I said everyone says that everywhere, they added that real reason is that people can’t afford office space.
In another office, a young architect offered to provide me with some nice pictures for my story. From an architect’s perspective that makes sense and is a kind offer. From a photographer’s it sounds slightly different!
About Marc Goodwin
Marc Goodwin founded his company Archmosphere in London with two goals. The first was
to provide its clients with the images they require, produced to meet the professional standard of the architectural press. Additionally, Marc works hard to restore the sense of place that is significant to architecture but lacking in most commercial photography. This second goal is achieved through attention to atmosphere.
The architects visited:
KHR Arkitekter Since 2010 / Size: 1400m2 / Former use: boat houses built to store naval ships in 1813 after a war.
Henning Larsen Since 2001 / Number of employees: 170 in Copenhagen / Former use: department store completed in 1939, designed by architects H. Ortmann and V. Berner Nielsen
3XN Since 2014 / Size: 2000m2 / Number of employees: 85
Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter Number of employees: 40
NORRØN Since: 2014 / Size: 180m2 / Number of employees: 8
C.F. Møller Since: 1981 / Number of employees: 80 in Copenhagen branch / Former use: part of the School of Architecture
LETH & GORI Since: 2011 / Number of employees: 5 / Former uses: bakery, Turkish club, two art galleries
JÄGNEFÄLT MILTON Number of employees: 7 / Former use: stables
White Since 2003 / Size: 6752m2 / Number of employees: 315 / Purpose built as office for White by White
Elding Oscarson Arkitekter Since: 2014 / Number of employees: 8 / Former use: brewery
Tham & Videgård Arkitekter Since: 2002 / Size: 200m2 / Number of employees: 15 / Former uses: head office including the telephone service for the local taxi company
Street Monkey Since: 2016 / Number of employees: 3 / Size: 46m2 / Former use: Built in 1940 as multifamily housing
Kjellander + Sjöberg Since: 2007 / Size: 260m2 / Number of employees: 40 / Former use: silk mill (today the mill’s operation is confined to one floor, a second floor is inhabited as a silk mill museum)
SWECO Since: 2012 / Size: 29,000m2 / Number of workstations: More than 1,400 / Former use: Newspaper HQ built in 1960-62
Superunion Architects Since: 2015 / Size: 130m2 / Number of employees: 4 / Former use: soap factory
Snøhetta Number of employees: 119 / Former use: storage area for harbour deliveries.
Lund Hagem Since: 2004 / Size: 1200m2 / Number of employees: 50 / Former use: storage area for harbour deliveries
Atelier Oslo Since 2011 / Number of employees: 12
LINK Since: mid 1980s / Number of employees: 59 in Olso branch (15 offices in Scandinavia) / Former uses: flour-mill
ghilardi+hellsten Since: 2007 / Size: 450m2 / Number of employees: 11 / Former uses: Dance studio
SPACEGROUP Since: 1999 / Size: 300m2 / Number of employees: 15 / Former uses: functionalist building from the 60s rehabilitated in 2013
ALA Since: 2013 / Number of employees: 40 / Former uses: student housing with a shooting range in the basement (still there) and a tennis court under the vault, which is where we are
B&M Architects Since: 2008 / Number of employees: 20 / Former uses: cable factory, which was turned into offices in the 1980s
JKMM Since: 2015 / Size: 1007m2 / Number of employees: 65 / Former uses: office building designed by Raoul Lehman in 1978
Studiopuisto Since: 2014 / Size: approx 90m2 / Number of employees: 6 / Former uses: fabric store, supermarket
Talli / Leviska / Helander (3 offices in shared space) Since: H&L moved in in 1997, Talli in 2012 / Size: 237m2 / Number of employees: 21 (Talli 14 people, Helander & Leiviskä 5, Micki Schnitzler 2) / Former uses: the building used to be an apartment building (built in 1929)
PES Size: 500m2 / Number of employees: 30 / Former uses: The office bought the site in the 1970’s and the office building was built 1976, area 300m2. The Atelier part was built 1990, area 120m2
Architectural Photo Marathon in Scandinavia, Marc Foodwin was interviewed by Tor Kjolberg
All images by Marc Goodwin
Feature image in top: From KHR Architects.