November 5, 2019

10 Questions With… Space Copenhagen

Peter Bundgaard Rützou and Signe Bindslev Henriksen of Space Copenhagen. Photography by Joachim Wichmann/Wichmann & Bendtsen.

“We call our approach Poetic Modernism,” say Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou, the duo behind Space Copenhagen. “The ambition is to forge new paths by balancing opposites—classic and modern, industrial and organic, sculptural and minimal, light and shade, duality and contrast.” Working across disciplines, the Danish design studio—established in 2005 and based in Copenhagen—reflects an intuitive approach and fundamental interest in human behavior through all its projects, which include private homes, hotels, restaurants, art installations, art direction, furniture, lighting, and objects. Here, Bindslev Henriksen and Bundgaard Rützou share their influences and latest projects with Interior Design. 

Interior Design: Could you tell us how Geist came about? What was your overall design goal for this restaurant project?

Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou: Behind Geist is a good friend of ours: Bo Bech. He is not only an amazing chef but also a man with a highly developed understanding of how social spaces work. His dream was to make a place that enables guests to experience his unique approach to dining as well as creating a spatial frame that becomes a space for social encounters, drinking, conversation, flirting, laughing, and staying late. This eclectic aspiration became the work ethos that helped us to define the design language. First opened in 2012 with interiors by us, the restaurant—located in the Danish capital—has a new look, which keeps the palette of dark neutrals, tonal wood, and brown fossil marble, but these are offset by sandy plastered walls and five bespoke glass chandeliers. Geist is modern, lush, eclectic, slightly nostalgic, seductive, dreamy, and softly subdued.

Geist restaurant, designed by Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen. 

ID:  What was the biggest challenge you faced with Great Northern Spa—and what were your sources of inspiration?

SGH and PBR: We had previously worked with the Lego Group behind Great Northern Spa, which is nestled in between two fjords overlooking the coastal landscape of Keterminde in Funen, Denmark. Intentions and methods were quite clear. The project was easy and steadily progressed. It seems appropriate to the serene nature of a spa. The décor takes its cue from the textures and hues of its surrounding landscape and abundance of natural light. We selected stone, wood, and metals to create a harmonious and comfortable backdrop.

ID: How would you describe the design concept behind The Stratford in London?  

SGH and PBR: The Stratford project was introduced to us by Harry Handelsman with a concept that he named “Vertical Living,” in contrast to the notion of the horizontal cityscape of the classic European cities. The lobby is almost like a village square with places to eat and dine, work, socialize, contemplate, etc. As you move into the depth of the space, the privacy or intimacy intensifies—and further as you elevate first to the mezzanine club, onwards up through the 145 guestrooms and suite. The design aesthetics of the hotel seek to translate and balance the masculinity of the structure by SOM, by introducing a different palette of materials. The pieces of furniture are functional and sculptural.

The Space Copenhagen-designed The Straford in London. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen.

ID: How do you think Scandinavian design culture impacts you?

SGH and PBR: It is something that we are often asked. The funny thing is that when you grow up somewhere, it is with a delayed sense of recognition that you realize the imprint of what is around you. To us the notion of the iconic Scandinavian living was, and is, a way of growing up. We were surrounded by the mentality, the mindset, certainly the objects and famed furniture and designs as well. But as a child it is not perceived as such. It’s only later that you realize that it’s embedded in your way of thinking. In Denmark, we are a small country, with a high standard of living. We have a tendency to favor direct connections or relations. But being born somewhere is just a beginning. It is though travel, encounter and confrontation with other people with different backgrounds and stories that it all matters. It is in this exchange of cultural imprint that the future gets its direction and shape. Transformation needs differentiation and motivation from outside a given structure or pattern. Yes, we are Scandinavians… with a curiosity, love, and fascination of everywhere else.

ID: What is your first memory of design?

SGH: My grandmother was an architect. I remember the presence of paper… paper everywhere—to draw upon, to sketch, to dream.

PBR: I remember metal, the smell of it—clean, mineral, masculine; how it looks when welded, the sparks and the transformation by force.

Denmark’s Great Northern Spa, designed by Space Copenhagen. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen.

ID: Can you name some people in the industry who inspire you and tell us why?

SGH and PBR: We have a great admiration for Peter Zumthor and his rare sensibility towards understanding space, material, and tactility. There are also Noguchi, Serra and Rothko. We often find inspiration outside our own profession, especially in art but also in craft—art for the abstraction, its ability to reach inside, provoke thinking and motivate sensory feedback; and craft for the magic of materials and what can be done.

ID: In what kind of home do you live? Could you describe it? 

SGH and PBR: Even though we are two individuals that have each our habitation, we have to a large degree somewhat coinciding tastes and preferences. We tend to gravitate towards a balance of modern well-arranged environments with notes of something classic and with historic reference. We use slightly desaturated tones of wood and stone, white walls, and dark wood flooring. And we love art.

A guestroom bathroom in The Stratford in London. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen.

ID: Can you share some of your upcoming projects? 

SGH and PBR: We are working on several hospitality projects: in Tokyo (with The Mori Group) and in Porto. In New York and Moscow, we have different residential projects, and we are about to start a new restaurant adventure with Bo Bech and are halfway through another with Chef Sergio Herman in Antwerp. Apart from that, we are working hard on a lot of new designs ranging from chairs, tables, and light fixtures to many other typologies.

ID: Do you have a secret you can share?

SGH and PBR: Well, we do have secrets. But sharing would imply they would no longer be secrets…

ID: What are you reading?

SGH: “The Year of Magical Thinking” and “Play It as It Lays” by Joan Didion 

PBR: “Tyll” by Daniel Kehlmann, “Story of the Eye” by George Bataille, and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh.

Keep scrolling for more images >

A guestroom at the Space Copenhagen-designed The Stratford in London. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen.
Great Northern Spa in Funen, Denmark. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen.
The bar at Geist restaurant in Copenhagen. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen. 
Geist restaurant in Copenhagen. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen.
Denmark’s Great Northern Spa. Photography courtesy of Space Copenhagen.

Read more: 10 Questions With… Kim Dolva

Recent DesignWire