At the heart of MATTERS
By Trine Jensen-Martin | Photos: Helene Høyer Mikkelsen
With a focus on beautiful, sustainable and creative design in harmony with nature and context, MATTERS Architects continue to cement their place on the world stage, receiving national and international accolades. Each innovative project is carefully researched and curated, and allowed to take on a life and a language of its own.
MATTERS is the brainchild of co-founders and architects Marie-Louise Holst and Lotte Rønne. With a wealth of experience between them, and a shared passion for social sustainability and what they call “place-making”, they founded MATTERS in 2014. They have a distinctive approach to their work, which is firmly anchored in a respect for nature and for the essence of each individual project.
The sense of a place
“Our starting point is that no place has a prescribed language,” Marie-Louise Holst explains. “Each project must find its own identity. It is a game of both fitting in and being new.”
One of the biggest challenges for them is to combine what is already there with genuinely new ideas, and enhancing the quality of a space rather than completely erasing its soul to be replaced by the latest trend. “It is about finding the pieces of the puzzle and solving it in the most beautiful and usable way,” says Holst.
At MATTERS, they want to get a feel for the core of any project at hand, and for the sense of the place to find itself in the process. This is architecture and design where mindfulness is a part of the very fabric of the company, in human and contextual as well as design terms.
A winter bather’s paradise
One example of art and beauty working together alongside functionality and context is the winter bathing house, Isfuglen (‘The Ice bird’), in Brøndby Marine Harbour, overlooking the bay of Køge. It is both a club house for the winter bathing club Bifrost, and a place for visitors to enjoy views of the water from the large wooden deck area between the building and the waves. This project encompasses what is at the heart of MATTERS: imagination, identity, quality and playfulness.
“The building is an interpretation of iconic and recognisable shapes and materials found in the harbour,” Holst explains. “In this way, Isfuglen exists in cohesion with the older buildings in shape and colour, whilst reclaiming its own identity.”
The bathing house fits in with the historic harbour, the boats, and the people, showing a strong sense of commitment to both the community and the social context of the harbour itself. The use of colours, materials, and shapes in the making of Isfuglen is what makes it fit in with its context, but also what makes it unique; there is no place like this, a true marriage of old and new ideas.
Both the character of the bathing house and the process of its design and development are engaging; MATTERS has reinterpreted and reimagined the inherent beauty of the site and worked closely with nature to achieve what has become an effortless part of the environment in Brøndby Marine Harbour. You almost get the sense of the building moulding itself into the rocks, the sea and the souls of those lucky ones who get to jump into the icy waters there.
“We had to create something that would fit in but would still have its own identity,” Holst explains. The key for MATTERS was to add to the existing quality of the space, not take anything away from it, and to embrace what was already there. This place truly showcases how they put into creation their passion and respect for nature.
Nordic simplicity – with a twist!
“We use honest materials, and let a space be the space it is,” Holst says when describing what northern simplicity means to her. “The twist is that we can still be daring and challenging and let each creation or project become its own,” she expands.
To MATTERS, architecture is not simply about functionality, spaces or places. Art is important, beauty is important, the social aspect and context are important. MATTERS were recently honoured as finalists at this year’s World Architecture Festival, for their project Valhøj School in Copenhagen and Isfuglen, as well as winning third prize at the 2021 Thessaloniki Design Week, for The Future School Project, which competed in Open Call in the Large Scale Projects category. And with imagination in the driving seat, they will continue to reshape and reimagine the projects they work on, allowing each place to find its own way of communicating with its users.
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