Founded in 2010, &tradition is part of a new generation of design companies beginning to make waves in the interiors world. Established on the principle that tradition is tied to innovation, the Copenhagen-based studio focuses on reinventing Danish design through collaboration. Using a handpicked selection of designers that range from emerging talent to established names allows the company evolve and grow with each collection. In an industry which is constantly changing, &tradition’s philosophy ensures they not only remain relevant but always one step ahead of the pack.
Previously known as Unique Copenhagen, &tradition’s rebrand symbolised their approach that combines solid handicraft with modern design and Nordic tradition with high quality. Founder, Martin Kornbek Hansen explains, “we want to connect with the old masters while giving space to new designers to define what will become future classics. We see a kinship between the old masters, who were avant-garde in their time, and new designers creating the ground-breaking icons of today.”
However, the concept of designing with one foot in the past and one in the future forms only part of their story. Cultures, too, play a fundamental role in the design process with &tradition taking a decidedly international approach when selecting their designers. The combination of varying influences merges with &tradition’s Nordic heritage to form the backbone of each collection and gift each piece with a unique identity.
Commenting on &tradition’s collaboration with Spanish designer, Jamie Hayon, Hansen explains, “we as a family are founded in Copenhagen with a Scandinavian design heritage, for the interest comes when you combine cultures. Where (&tradition) are rooted in Scandinavian design, he (Hayon) is founded in the Spanish way of working. That clash together makes the products that we launch together very exciting and new.”
&tradition’s avant-garde approach to design extends to their headquarters. Located on Paper Island, just off Copenhagen’s harbour, NORM Architects have transformed a former warehouse into a series of minimalist white showrooms. Known as the ‘village,’ these houses are the culmination of a five-year journey between the design house and architects. Beginning with trade fairs and pop-ups, NORM’s striking village lies somewhere between architecture and a functional art installation.
Historically used as a paper store, NORM have completely stripped back the interior space leaving only the skeletal timber gables which remain as a subtle nod to the building’s heritage. The smooth concrete and resin flooring contrasts the original features with the matt finish serving to ground the twelve white structures that populate the space. These ‘houses’, arranged in a grouped layout reminiscent of a Mediterranean village, come complete with streets and alleys interlinking the units. A modern piazza, placed in the centre of these units, forms a natural meeting point for parties, talks, and presentations. “We have been working intensely with archetypical elements from village architecture, like the city square, the church tower, the main streets, the alleys, the perfect grid and the imperfect irregularities that occur by chance,” said Linda Korndal of Norm Architects.
Each of the structures is designed in the same architectural language but feature subtle variations depending on their particular use. Some are like towers; others have windows and doors, internal staircases and a rooftop terrace and a few are blank monolithic structures without detailing or signature. While many of the pavilions are functional (operating as kitchens, meeting rooms or displays) the majority are flexible spaces, open to change.
Paper Island, also known as Christiansholm Island, is proving increasingly popular amongst the city’s creative contingency, who see the warehouses as ideal spaces for their studios or workshops. This migration is something that Hansen is looking to harness in order to bring life into his artisanal village. “What we’re really excited about is that every six months we are planning to invite artists and designers to create an overall concept for the space so that it will function like a gallery for our products,” said Hansen.
The immersive experience created by &tradition’s village headquarters is one of the factors that has seen the company considered amongst the most exciting brands to arrive in recent times. Their respect for the old masters twinned with their innovative drive allows them to celebrate not only classical design by Arne Jacobsen or Vernon Paton but importantly, serves as a bridge for the next generation. In an era where designers are focussed on the future, &tradition helps remind us that to move forward; you have to look back first.