dorte mandrup on 'irreplaceable places' for friedman benda's 'design in dialogue'

Jun 15, 2021

on april 1, 2020, new york gallery friedman benda initiated a series of online interviews aimed at connecting individuals across the world with leading voices in the creative field. design in dialogue is a conversational program hosted alternately by curator and historian glenn adamson and designer stephen burks that engages with designers, makers, critics, and curators as they reflect on their careers and creative processes. against the backdrop of COVID-19 and global lockdowns, the conversations are held virtually on zoom for 1 hour for anyone in the world to tune in to, and include a participatory Q&A with the audience in attendance. friedman benda has since presented more than 90 episodes, and will continue with a lineup of future guests, each offering unparalleled insight into the sensibilities, musings, and memories of today’s creative protagonists. see our recent feature of ronan bouroullec on context, communication and collaboration, and amanda williams on space and social systems.

on april 21, 2021 design in dialogue welcomed danish architect dorte mandrup, whose studio specializes in ‘irreplaceable places’. informed by her background in ceramics and sculpture, mandrup is an object-maker at a monumental scale, taking a hands-on approach to the discipline. the architect is also known for her site-sensitive methodology, whether working with existing, historically fragile fabric, or creating new structures in extraordinary settings. in a conversation with glenn adamson, mandrup focused on case studies within her wide-ranging practice, including the whale, the exilmuseum in berlin, and the ilulissat icefjord centre — see them below.

watch the full video interview at the top of the page and stay tuned as designboom continues to share design in dialogue features. see all past episodes — and RSVP for upcoming ones — here.

founded in 1999 and based in copenhagen, dorte mandrup has grown to become an internationally renowned name working across geography and scale. from ‘the whale’ — a major visitor attraction on the northernmost part of an island inside the arctic circle — to a new museum in berlin dedicated to those who fled in exile during the second world war, the studio creates architecture with a sense of place and a unique sense of materiality. mandrup began the conversation by introducing the significance of considering a site’s context, whether in history or landscape, across all projects in the firm’s wide-ranging portfolio. ‘one of the things that’s so important to me is that we work with the notion of context,’ mandrup shares. ‘in one way or the other, the context is always charged — it can be physical or emotional. what we always try to do is to enhance or to extract what’s there, or what is the underlining contextual situation, to underline what’s already embedded there. I think, by doing that, we’re creating a place emotionally, as well as physically of course. the context can be very different — it can be historical, it could be a landscape situation, but we always try to work with the contextual conditions before anything else.’

in close cooperation with context, an element essential to the core creative philosophy of dorte mandrup is materality. the studio’s preoccupation with exploring sculptural and material qualities of architecture has led to a variety of artful, intriguing spaces that foreground their environment and the conditions from which they arise. ‘the way that materiality in connection with space can suddenly change the whole reality is something that’s always interested me a lot,’ mandrup shares. ‘when we work with really inexpensive, low budget buildings, we do a lot of research into how you can work with un-precious materials and make them precious, make them expressive, and inform a space. we have a large material library, and we can always try to dig deeper down into the possibilities of a material. the knowledge within the material is extremely interesting. I think with materiality, the most important thing is to not be superficial, but to really understand that there’s a whole depth that you need to know before you can start using it.’

finally, mandrup shared her views on the future of architecture post-pandemic, noting the need for togetherness at work, and the enthusiasm of her team to exchange ideas in person again. ‘I think everybody right now is kind of waiting for what’s going to happen with architecture and cities,’ she shares. ‘I think there’s going to be more interest in public space. I can see discussions are very much about making public space available, and to make more green spaces and so forth. but on the other hand, you could say there’s been so many epidemics through the history of europe, and it hasn’t changed cities all that much. people are also discussing how workspaces will change — will we start working from home? I think there’s a change of mind in a way that people are, maybe temporarily, having different values or moving out of the cities a little bit more, but I think there’s a real importance to actually having a workspace where you can work together with people, and you’re not at a distance. that’s my personal opinion, and people here — especially in the office — have been fighting to get in here!..to work and to interchange ideas. I think that’s so difficult to do on a screen.’



design in dialogue is a series of online interviews presented by new york-based gallery friedman benda that highlights leading voices from the field — designers, makers, critics, and curators — as they discuss their work and ideas. hosted alternately by curator and historian glenn adamson and designer stephen burks, the conversations are held on zoom for 1 hour and include a participatory Q&A.

watch the full video interview with dorte mandrup at the top of the page and stay tuned as designboom continues to share design in dialogue features. see all past episodes — and RSVP for upcoming ones — here.