Helen & Hard
Helen & Hard
NORWAY - Helen & Hard occupy a special position in Norwegian architecture, both in terms of their projects and of their location in the western oil-town of Stavanger. They are still a young practice, yet they have many built works to their name, including surprising conversions of old structures and innovative housing projects. Lately they have won several competitions for public buildings. Reuse of existing elements from local industry and use of local human resources are common to many projects, as are inventive analysis and working methods. What emerges is quite different from the regional modernism that has dominated the Norwegian architectural scene for almost a century.
Siv Helene Stangeland (b. 1966) is a graduate of the Oslo School of Architecture (1994). She also attended the Technical University in Barcelona in 1990 and the Barcelona Arts School Massana in 1989. Reinhard Kropf (b. 1967) is a graduate of the Technical University in Graz (1995) where he studied under Günter Domenig. He also studied under Sverre Fehn at the Oslo School of Architecture in 1993, which is where he met Siv Helene Stangeland. Stangeland and Kropf set up their practice, Helen & Hard, in Stavanger in 1995.
Sissil Gromholt: What are the advantages of being based [in Stavanger]?
Siv Helene Stangeland: First of all the oil industry has enormous resources. Economically, of course, but not least as a knowledge base. In Stavanger the know-how is in the oil industry, not in the cultural field. This unique work environment has contributed a lot to the way we work and think. We like to use knowledge derived from local processes and technology transfers.
Reinhard Kropf: There is also a freedom in being on the periphery which helps us to distance ourselves from the ideological burden of genius loci, the term coined by theorist Christian Nordberg Schultz that has been an important part of the Norwegian architectural discourse. We are sceptical about his preconceived notions about qualities of place, about quality of place read as static physical attributes. For us the place is a field of possibilities that you have to discover for yourself, it is something that must be created, not something that is already there. We want to have a more relational attitude to place, as something that emerges through negotiation.