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Mårten, Eero and Ola (from left to right) of Claesson Koivsito Rune
24th June 2017

Small-Scale Charm: Q&A with Claesson Koivisto Rune

De Bergenske is unlike other hotel chains. Run by Bergen native Kjetil Smørås, whose family have run hotels in the city for three generations, De Bergenske will eventually comprise of just five hotels, each housed in historic properties that are dotted around the centre of Bergen. While together they make up a group of hotels, Zander K, Grand Terminus, Bergen Børs, Villa Terminus, and Augustin all have their own unique charm. No two hotels are the same. 
 
Zander K, for example, is formed of three buildings – a restored bike shop that dates back to the 1920s, a former garage from the same era, and a newly erected building – and is inspired by the 266 days of rainfall that Bergen experiences each year. Elsewhere, Villa Terminus, the smallest hotel in the De Bergenske collection, boasts a late-Baroque exterior coupled with an interior that encompasses designs spanning almost 70 decades, from the 1950s to present day. Although refreshing in their diversity, the five hotels share a consistent design sensibility. Both Zander K and Villa Terminus were designed by Stockholm-based architecture and design practice Claesson Koivisto Rune and the designs that feature in the hotels include pieces by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, Ilse Crawford, Arne Jacobsen, Samuel Wilkinson and David Chipperfield. 
Bergen's colourful coastline
For De Bergenske, “expansion is not a target in itself. It is more important that each hotel allows its guests to expand their horizons during every single visit.” This sentiment makes for an eclectic collection of hotels: each rousing in their ambition to tell new stories about the city. 
 
Following the opening of Zander K in June, Zetteler caught up with Eero Koivisto, one of three founders of Claesson Koivisto Rune. In the interview that follows Eero speaks of his love for Bergen – the unrivalled view of the mountains from the aeroplane, the city’s thriving creative community and its “small-scale charm” – as well as their vision for Zander K, and the challenges that come with designing a hotel. 
The downstairs restaurant Matbar, which means 'food bar' in Norwegian. Photography by Åke Eson Lindman.
All five of De Bergenske’s hotels are located in the centre of Bergen. Your practice is based in Stockholm but presumably collaborating  with De Bergenske means to come to Bergen often. What do you love about the city?
Despite it being the second largest city in Norway, Bergen somehow feels like a village. Almost everything is within walking distance. Bergen therefore has a certain cosiness to it.
 
What makes Bergen unique?
The city is situated in a fjord with houses climbing up the sides of the mountains that surround it. It appears particularly dramatic when looking down upon it when arriving by aeroplane and equally dramatic in the dark, when the lights in all the houses rise vertically up the mountainsides.  
 
What makes Bergen so influential in terms of the Norwegian design scene?
The high quality of the University of Bergen’s design department turns out equally high quality and talented students. Easy.
Bergen seen from the top of Fløyen mountain.
How is the city changing?
Like all Scandinavian cities, Bergen is a throughly modern city, but unlike most of them, it has still managed to keep a small-scale charm.
 
As well as design, Bergen also has a thriving music scene. What makes the city so creative?
There is a whole new generation of genre-ignoring talented musicians who are educated at the world-class Bergen Conservatory of Music. These musicians are making their mark on the international contemporary music scene across jazz, classic, and electronic music.
 
Zander K is the latest of De Bergenske’s hotels. What was the initial inspiration behind the hotel?  
We wanted the hotel to feel like Bergen. Nice, friendly, modern, and somewhat modest in scale. The hotel is located in three visually different, but fully connected buildings: the beige bike shop building, that dates back to 1928; the white parking garage, that was built a decade later; and finally the brand new blue building which, freshly built in 2017, which houses the hotel entrance. Only the facades of the older buildings were kept and two new extra floors were discreetly added on top of these. Most of the hotel’s interior has been newly built, but instead of making it look like one big building, we opted to downscale it visually into three smaller volumes. This was done to resonate with the small size of Bergen. We really like the fact that the hotel appears much smaller than it actually is.

Compact yet generous. The custom desk in polished stainless steel and the Sideview wall mirror reflects the light. Both designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune. Photography by Åke Eson Lindman.
A horizontal division of wood and mirror behind the bed acts both as an integrated headboard and visual room extension. Photography by Åke Eson Lindman.
You describe Zander K as “Bergen’s most modern hotel.” What does “modern” mean to you? 
We define modern as something that exists together with society in a conscious way. In a hotel it’s something that makes your life easier, and because of that, make you feel more relaxed.
 
What was the biggest challenge in designing the hotel?
To make a brand new contemporary hotel feel homey without putting a fake old-looking interior in it.
 
Rain seems to be a dominant motif in the hotel’s interiors – and indeed the Bergen climate – why did you side to turn what could be seen as a negative into such a strong theme?
Bergen is world famous for its yearly rainfall, almost to the extent that you expect it to rain when visiting. The truth is, even if it rains often, it’s usually for a very short time. There’s a lot of sun as well. We thought that by embracing this well known fact we could give a unique angle to the project. Honestly, what’s nicer than being inside a cosy hotel with a glass of red wine in your hand, while looking at the rain outside? We think that there’s a somewhat romantic touch to it. 
The sitting room at Villa Terminus. Photography by Åke Eson Lindman.
Villa Terminus from the outside. Photography by Åke Eson Lindman.
How do the hotels from the De Bergenske group ‘fit’ into the kind of city Bergen is becoming?
Bergen, like the rest of the world, is becoming more glocal. It’s becoming more personal and less corporate. De Bergenske’s hotels fit this new environment perfectly.
 
If someone were visiting Bergen for a week, what five things would you recommend they do?
In this order: 
1. Go to the top of Fløien mountain. 
2. Walk around in the old Bryggen part of the city.
3. See a concert at Grieghallen concert hall. 
4. Try the Grand Terminus whisky bar. 
5. Sleep in one of De Bergenske’s hotels

The Brianza chairs echo the scattered leaf pattern on the floor. Both designed by Claesson Koivsito Rune. Photography by Åke Eson Lindman.
The exterior of Zander K. Photography by Åke Eson Lindman.
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