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The stock exchange boardroom is now the cocktail bar featuring original, restored woodwork and new Carrara marble bar. Photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
17th August 2017

Bergen Børs: Q&A with Claesson Koivisto Rune

Swedish architectural practice Claesson Koivisto Rune is currently on a mission to transform Bergen’s hotel scene. Its third project for De Bergenske (a group masterminded by Kjetil Smørås, whose family has run hotels in the city for three generations), Bergen Børs is a 127-room renovation of the city’s neo-renaissance stock exchange, complete with top notch harbour-view restaurant BARE and packed with eccentric original features.

Located right by the Torgalmenningen (the main city square in Bergen), the stock exchange cuts an impressive figure, clad in red clay tile and soapstone. When the bank decided to move its head office, De Bergenske’s Kjetil Smørås knew it would be an excellent spot for a hotel and swooped in with plans to offer this unique building a new chapter in its history. 
The room materials, colours, hues and patterns all add to a serene and somewhat classic ambience. Jules easy chairs, Fluid pendent lamp, Palladio table, Frans blanket and the Ciclope mirror are a few of the Claesson Koivisto Rune's designs. Photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
Claesson Koivisto Rune’s design maximises the bank’s former glory while adding the air of a sartorial gent by complementing century’s old wooden panelling and original chandeliers with a tactile palette of leather and marble. “It’s a hotel where you can withdraw from the city and relax in a well-designed interior that feels like a club,” says Kjetil Smørås. Eero Koivisto, one of three founders of Claesson Koivisto Rune, adds, “We wanted the hotel to have a kind of ‘bank’ feeling – reliable, trustworthy, and not trendy.” 

The project offered a very different challenge to Claesson Koivisto Rune’s previous projects for De Bergenske, new-build Zander K and boutique restoration Villa Terminus. Bergen Børs is spread across three buildings from three very different eras meaning Claesson Koivisto Rune had to seamlessly blend old and new to create a consistent feel. Given the building’s history, there’s some exciting spaces to be found inside. Rooms like the stock exchange manager’s office, which even features the original safe and soundproofed doors, have been transformed into elegant suites and the former Chamber of Commerce (a well-kept secret that was open for only privileged few) has now been opened to the public as a bar.

Following the opening this month, we caught up with Eero Koivisto, one of three founders of Claesson Koivisto Rune, to discuss Bergen Børs' fascinating history and how this project differs from the two previous projects.
A simple twist of the tiling turns the bathroom into a harlequin pattern space. Photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
How would you describe the hotel’s overall aesthetic?

A classic upscale hotel with a modern contemporary feel to it.

In what ways did the building’s history inform your designs?

Certain parts of the project had beautiful original woodwork or other fine craftsmanship, for example handmade lamps, beautiful cast windows, or elaborate metal work. Everything new has to be able to co-exist with this. Therefore our design contribution has a certain neutral modernity attached to it. We also like the fact that it’s difficult for a guest to tell when the hotel was designed. We wanted the new hotel to have a unified look and feel. For a guest it should feel seamless, like you’re staying in one hotel. Not an “old” or a “new” room.
The classic lamps are by Serge Mouille and the chairs by Josef Hoffmann. The dining tables are leather clad to silence cutlery clatter. Photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
How did the challenges of this project differ from Zander K and Villa Terminus?

They differed  lot – it’s a totally different project. Zander K is a contemporary new-build modern hotel. Villa Terminus is a careful restoration of a listed 250-year-old building into a small boutique hotel. Bergen Børs is a luxury hotel situated in three different connected buildings, from three different eras. Where a guest should feel at home regardless of which room they stay in.

What original features did you retain?

As many as possible. And when not possible, we removed it, saved what could be saved, and installed it somewhere else in the project.
The dining room has floor to ceiling draperies and opposing full mirror walls, making the halls endlessly repeated in reflection. Photography by Åke E:son Lindman. Photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
The hotel has been described as both ‘luxurious’ and ‘modest’ – how are those two things presented in the design and furnishing?

We wanted the hotel to feel luxurious, and true luxury is always modest. So we have tried to keep a restricted palette in both colour and materials – to make the hotel feel luxurious, but with a somewhat discreet atmosphere.

Do you have a favourite room?

Corner room Nr. 601 where you can see the roof spires of the adjacent building just outside the window. But actually, we like all of the rooms. One of the charms of this hotel – and difficulties of the project – is that there’s so many different kinds of rooms. Big rooms, old rooms, new rooms, two-level rooms, historical rooms, and so on. 
The view of the spire from corner room 601.
Some of the interiors seem to reference the world of gentlemen’s tailoring (pinstripe and houndstooth patterns, etc). What inspired this?

We were looking for things that were somewhat non-changing and non-trendy. And to somehow inject a feeling of that into the project. That led us to the world of men’s tailoring, where aesthetic values are somewhat constant, and a certain distance to trendiness is preferred. All that would feel very at home in a classic up-scale hotel. 

To stay at Bergen Børs, visit www.bergenbors.no.

Read about other De Bergenske hotels that are making it big in Bergen, Villa Terminus and the hotel for a rainy stay Zander K.
Main entrance by night. Hotel sign and identity by Henrik Nygren Design. Photography by Åke E:son Lindman
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