ION believes in sustainable and beautiful architecture. To this end, it joins forces with renowned architectural firms both in Belgium and abroad. One of them is the Norwegian company Snøhetta AS, known for designing the Oslo Opera, among others. We travelled north and spoke to Simon Ewing, Deputy Managing Director.
Snøhetta's architecture is particularly recognisable. It is timeless and soothing. What inspires you?
Simon Ewings, explains, "Our projects all start from different layers and directions, but we always strive to create environments that add value to the human experience. We start with a very broad view at the start of the design, but we adapt everything to the environment and the context. Every detail has to match the social, cultural, physical and emotional environment. So the environment itself is the most important source of inspiration for us."
And what does that mean for the Oslo Opera?
"In this specific project we really aimed to create a public space that is accessible, but at the same time unique. Here, the architecture and the landscape merge together. The building takes you on a physical and emotional journey from everyday life to the world of the arts. From the known to the unknown. From pragmatism to a fairy tale.
The building is on the edge between the land and the sea. It bends around the water and embraces it. As such, visitors experience how this arts venue is the product of fantasy, but at the same time a place that is part of a larger environment. Walking on the white marble ramp of the building, you step into a new imaginary world that allows you to take a break from reality.
But there’s more... We wanted the building to be a unique experience in itself. It creates an atmosphere of being alone in nature. This is the parallel with the lonely, misunderstood artist before his work is considered great art.
Did you deliberately choose to design an opera house? A place where art, music and dance come together?
"Yes, we deliberately chose to enter the competition in 1999. Why? Because this was a beautiful, unique opportunity to illustrate how cultural buildings can be a cornerstone of our cities. They have the power to show people how they deal with the changes in their environment. And at Snøhetta, we believe that culture offers great added value to our society. With this project we also wanted to create a new kind of opera building that breaks with the stigma surrounding the traditional art form of opera. A building that challenges its visitors. A building that triggers their curiosity and inspires them."
Simon Ewings studied architecture at Oxford Brooks University and the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow. For seven years, he worked on various cultural projects in London. In 2001 he joined Snøhetta and the Oslo Opera project. Between 2008 and 2014 Simon worked for Snøhetta New York where he was responsible for the extension of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Since returning to Oslo in 2014, Simon has taken on the role of Deputy Managing Director.