Building big: A conversation with architect Marie Claussen


Building big: A conversation with architect Marie Claussen

In the realm of architectural design, the creation of resorts stands as a distinctive endeavor. The canvas expands beyond the urban jungle, inviting architects to weave a tapestry that harmonizes with natural landscapes and captivates the senses. However, the process of designing large buildings is also an intricate dance between the artistic vision of the architect and the pragmatic constraints imposed by the site, budget, and structural requirements.

To find out more about the possibilities and challenges of this unique discipline within architecture, we spoke to Marie Claussen, partner at LPO Arkitekter and lead architect of the five-star Lily Country Club outside of Oslo.

How did you get into architecture?
I didn’t really grow up knowing I wanted to be an architect. However, I always liked to create things. My favorite classes in school were arts and crafts, like painting and woodwork. After trying to figure out how I could continue doing the things I liked I ended up being accepted to an architecture program and really enjoyed it.

You were the lead architect for the Lily Country Club. Is it your biggest project so far?
We do a lot of big projects at LPO, including urban planning, housing, cultural buildings, military facilities and more, but yes, it’s the largest one I’ve been responsible for.

What are some challenges when working on such a massive scale?
The first thing we have to do when searching for a building concept is to get a good knowledge of what we are to draw: we need to understand the intended function of the building and how it needs to be organized. A dialogue with the client is essential in this phase. Then the knowledge of what we are to draw must be transformed into a physical structure that needs to fit onto a site — enhancing its qualities. The greatest challenge lies in combining these factors, managing to keep the original idea and vision throughout the process, and overcoming discussions on the use of money and changes in execution.

How long did it take to build?
We started in the fall of 2017 and finished in 2020, so it was a speedy process.

What was your starting point in terms of vision?
When we started working with a concept for Miklagard it was obvious to us that the amazing qualities of the surroundings must play the lead part. Coming to the resort must give the feeling of arriving and at the same time give a divine feeling of expectation for what lies ahead. We wanted a sunny courtyard to meet and greet the guests – surrounded by the hotel's conference center, the two hotel wings with their French balconies and the main entrance of the hotel. Once having passed through the entrance we wanted the room to broaden and reveal the view of the landscape outside.

You mentioned having worked with other large structures like military buildings. What is the difference when working with something purely functional, like a military facility, and a structure where aesthetics plays a much bigger part?
Well, perhaps surprisingly, I’d say there’s not a major difference. For example, many of the military facilities around Norway look like thrown dice on a large patch of land, so our goal was to make these facilities more compact. With a resort, as you say, you also have to think about attractive design. But as you still have to consider the limitations and possibilities in terms of the area, legalities and budget, there’s always a particular program for what you want to achieve. As such, architects are putting together the same type of jigsaw puzzle regardless of the project. The criteria and angle might differ, but we’re using the same approach to reach the best result possible.

The Lily Country Club has an oriental interior. Why did you choose this?
The oriental design is connected to the name of the neighboring golf course, Miklagard, which also was the original name of the hotel. “Miklagard” was the Viking name for Istanbul. Vikings went there as mercenaries and they were paid in gold for their services. As a result of this communication between the Vikings and the Orient, there are similarities in the ornaments used by the Vikings and those seen in the Orient. This can be observed both in metal and woodwork. We wanted to use this fact as an inspiration for the hotel with the use of wood and metal patterns on the facades as well as the interiors The colors, too, are a marriage between northern ornamental and oriental style.

Have you worked on other resorts since or do you feel done with that part of the job?
On the one hand, you don’t want to be stuck doing very similar projects as it gets repetitive. But on the other hand, these larger projects always offer up interesting challenges and it of course helps to have done something tangential in the past. You bring a whole set of tools to the job that a first-timer doesn’t have, and there’s a comfort in that — knowing the process. But I’m still working on exciting hotel projects, one where we’re adding new buildings to a historical one and another quite unique structure located in Svalbard.

It must be pretty special, building in that kind of Arctic environment…
We actually have a small office located on the island. But yes, the building is a bit complex as everything you want to get rid of must be shipped to the mainland and new materials you need for the project must be shipped to the island. We try to solve this by reusing as much material as we can get a hold of at Svalbard and adding as little as possible of new materials.

Do you have a dream project?
Not really. My favorite projects are rather those where everything comes together nicely. You can have a great concept but then a cumbersome process ruins the fun and everything becomes a struggle, or you can work on a pretty standard project but everything works and everyone involved feels inspired which leads to a great result. That’s when you love the job the most.

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SAPA Products: SAPA Facade 4150 and SAPA Door 2086
Architect: LPO Arkitekter
Entrepreneur: Veidekke