Creating Authenticity Through Context

Architecture holds greater meaning when skillfully integrated into the locale or natural landscape.

In modern society’s expanse, forests have gradually turned into concrete jungles. As a result, designers are beginning to push back to ensure that offices and city planners can create experiences that are in harmony with their local surroundings, and make a significant impact on the landscape and observer.

Building Tomorrow: Trends Driving The Future of Design, a PSFK Labs report created in partnership with Architizer, explored the implications for blended landscapes as they impact retail environments, offices and cities.

As natural scenes are often desired in urban settings, emerging retail spaces are taking inspiration from community artists, designers and leaders while companies are blending their corporate voice with local elements. These new structures and building systems allow an organization to inject a community culture that aligns with the existing character of the neighborhood.

In Copenhagen, for instance, nestled among a row of historic 1960’s buildings, Danish jewelry store Trollbeads makes a subtle statement by blending into the old street. BBP Arkitekter incorporated elements from the surrounding buildings while showcasing Trollbeads’ signature glass aesthetic and chain-link charms. A retractable brass curtain opens every morning so the building emulates the historic house on either side. At night, the curtain closes automatically for security purposes. After dark, interior lights reveal a modern glass house behind the translucent veil. In doing so, Trollbeads blends a new age retail space into a historical setting, bringing a modern influence into the history of the neighborhood.


Seattle-based architecture firm Olson Kundig believes that, “ultimately, truly timeless architecture is inseparable from place; its authenticity derives from its context, allowing it to remain relevant.”

Small Moesgaard (1)

While the Trollbeads headquarters blends into an urban landscape, the Moesgaard Museum was built to nestle into the rolling hills of Skåde. As a museum dedicated to archeology, its 172,225-square-foot interior structure mimics archaeological excavations with varied terraces blending the exhibits into their natural environment giving visitors the impression of unearthing history. The now-iconic planted roof offers visitors a place to picnic in the summer or sled in the winter with views of the surrounding countryside. By burying itself into the Danish landscape, the museum creates even more meaning for its visitors.

Ken Architeken’s similar concept for a condominium complex in Bruggerberg, Switzerland (shown at the very top) defies the conventional wisdom of what a terraced home should look like. The 16 condominium apartments are fused like islands, with a shape that clings to the contours of the existing terrain. The particular use of material, color, detail and scale fits into the Bruggerberg hill as if a natural part of it, and the floor plan reacts to the character of the building.

In each instance, these structures have more meaning in context than they would in isolation. By drawing from the historical and cultural significance of their surroundings, these buildings gain an authenticity that proves they are more than the sum of their parts.

Lead Image: BBP Arkitekter

Images: Henning Larsen Architects / Ken Architekten


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