In Conversation with Snøhetta

Snohetta is a sustainable design firm that created the chairs in our Emma Street eatery (3 minute read).

Snøhetta is an international architecture, product design and graphic design firm, renowned for their design thinking. They have recently begun to focus their attention on how best to renew recycled plastic, with the aim of being able to demonstrate that plastic can be more than a mere waste product, but can be employed to create beautifully designed, considered and environmentally conscious objects.

We are very humbled to have Snøhetta’s S-1500 chairs at our Emma Street eatery, and took some time to talk design thinking, design philosophy and the role of design in sustainability with Stian Rossi, Architect and Project Manager at Snøhetta in Oslo, Norway.

What is the design philosophy at Snøhetta?

Fundamental to all our work is a commitment to social and environmental sustainability. Because of that, our projects involve extensive collaboration with clients, users, contractors, and other stakeholders. We know that with well-conceived design we can help things run more fluidly, improve people’s well-being, and make life more enjoyable. We believe that every project is a unique expression of the ethos of its users, climate, and context.

How does Snøhetta’s design philosophy change when approaching sustainable design?

We are very aware of, and concerned by the footprint that our designs have. We know that our material choice is one of the major parts that impacts an object’s CO2 footprint, in addition to other factors such as process, production and transportation. This is a complex equation that we consider carefully for every project as each case and each design is unique.

What does sustainable design mean to Snøhetta?

In all of our projects, we are very aware of the quality of the materials we use and how we put them together. Material choice, its production, components, potential for recycling and reuse is very important in this regard. We firmly believe that through collaboration, research and innovation, the architecture and design industry does have the potential to contribute positively not only to sustainability and renewability too. In order to achieve this, though, we need to think long term in terms of the design, usability and the whole life cycle of the goods that we make.

What is the key design feature of the S-1500 chair?

The key feature of the S-1500 chair is the design thinking behind it. The material used in the production of the S-1500 chair is provided by local fish farming companies like Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett and Nova Sea in Norway that supply our client Nordic Comfort Products (NCP) with worn-out fish nets, ropes and pipes from their operations. Once these components are worn out, they can be collected, processed and subsequently grinded into a granulate that can be injected into formwork, generating endless possibilities for developing new objects. In this way, the project contributes to building a local, circular economy, as it employs plastic waste from the local industry to produce chairs in the same area.

From a more aesthetical point of view, the color finishes of each S-1500 chair product is quite interesting. Due to its production technique and varying plastic compositions, the pattern of each chair will be unique and individual, even though the chair will be mass produced. Its matte, pebbled, dark green surface bears resemblance to marble. It tells the story of plastic that has been on a journey as fish nets in the North Sea, to the production facilities of NCP and eventually ends up as a chair in a school, a home or in an eatery as it is at Ozone’s Emma Street.

From Snøhetta’s point of view, what is the design industry’s role in sustainability?

In order to reduce the need to produce new, virgin plastic products, consumers and industry need to acknowledge the inherent value in used plastic, and find ways to substitute virgin plastic with recycled material. The same goes for other CO2 footprint-heavy materials. With the development of the S-1500 chair, Snøhetta hopes to inspire people to employ waste material in new and sustainable ways through innovation and design.