Feature: "We must be super local"

This feature with an interview of Reiulf Ramstad was published by the National Association of Norwegian Architects (NAL) on their website arkitektur.no, 17/03/2015, and has been translated from Norwegian. The article is part of NAL's flagship initiative for 2014/15: Architectural expertise in municipal administration.

Reiulf Ramstad Architects have project in 15 of the Norway's counties. The firm has a sharp eye to spot the contrasts and uniqueness of a location. During a lecture at the Association of Consulting Architects in Norway, Ramstad compared the profession with cooking.


– I believe architects, as chefs, should continually ask ourselves some simple questions: what do we really want to serve? Should it be food made from scratch, or fastfood? And why do we do what we do? Is it only to make money, or is it because we love cooking or designing houses? For my colleagues and myself it is founded on a passion for people and places at the same time as it's our livelihood, says Reiulf Ramstad.

Ramstad work with people and differences on many levels. He has employees from ten different nations, providing the studio with many appetizing lunches and creative brainstorming. The office works closely with clients and local authorities. Their projects gain a close relation with the places they are to be built.

– We are always looking for opportunities to develop clear and innovative architectural concepts in smaller municipalities. They are often open-minded to new possibilities over conventional solutions, he says.

As architect, Reiulf Ramstad has experienced that Norway is a "different kind of country" for better or worse. On the one hand, we have large and exciting variations in population, culture and geography. On the other, we are bound by a very uniform and detailed regulatory Planning and Building Act. Fortunately there are also a lot of common sense and willingness to find solutions in the municipalities.

– We spend a lot of resources to create a constructive and professional dialogue with our collaborators, and there are many skilled people in Norwegian municipalities. I meet them when designing a folk museum in Romsdal, cabin at Hvaler, and urban apartments in Mandal. They know the processes, are accommodating and efficient, Ramstad explains.

He experiences great differences between urban and rural areas. Good projects in a city like Oslo are almost always accompanied by a long tail of applications for dispensation or relaxation of Building Regulations. In the districts there are fewer conflicting interests and more flexibility. This makes it easier to carry through innovative projects that contribute to a site's development and character. Ramstad believes that the municipalities of Norway should cultivate its diversity in an increasingly global and conforming situation.

– Should all become equal or remain different? To me there is no doubt. We must be super local. Architectural progress is about giving people more freedom to be and live in the way they perceive to be their own, he concludes.