The Biotope ethos
«Friluftsliv» is much like the word ´fjord´, a very norwegian word. It has no direct english equivalent. In a norwegian context the word is essentially understood as ´being in nature´. At Biotope we aim to design architecture for life outdoors, in nature. This is Biotope´s founder Tormod Amundsens take on «friluftsliv» and the background of Biotope´s architectural thinking:
"Since I can remember I have always loved nature and being in nature. As a little kid I always knew I would somehow work with nature. I was into fish, animals, flowers, whales and dinosaurs. When I realised birds was essentially the peak of dinosaur evolution I went all in on birdwatching. Nature had produced the most amazing creatures imaginable. Gravity defying, winged awesomeness, in endless shapes and colours. Growing up I would buy every bird book I could get my hands on. David Attenborough was my hero and I would spend as much time in nature as possible. I know I share this naturalist, knowledge based approach with so many of my fellow birders both in UK and around the world.
Another key aspect of my background is the norwegian concept of ´friluftsliv´. Perhaps best described as the art of enjoying every moment in nature. Growing up I would spend as much time in naure as possible, and most of all I enjoyed sleeping in the great outdoors. My favourite time in nature had few elements to it: A fireplace, a self made shelter and the time and comfort to enjoy it. I spent countless nights and days in nature, often building a temporary structures for shelter during the night. In norwegian we call these shelters ´gapahuk´. Armed with a decent sleeping bag and a fireplace, I had the ultimate conditions sorted nicely. I don´t know how many times I have enjoyed a fireplace with hooting Pygmy Owls in the background and Siberian Jays visiting my camp for an easy snack.
Initially I thought I was going to become a biologist, but my creative side got the better of me. A long story short and years later, after much traveling and a master´s degree in achitecture, I realised that I had to become a ´nature architect´. During my studies I rarely met any architects engaging with nature projects. To me, architects seemed to dwell in the fields of culture and urbanism, and the word ecology never seemed to be feature. I figured my passion for wildlife and nature could be combined witht he field of architecture. This was the thought that was to evolve into the realisation of Biotope: An architectural practise that seeks to bring people and nature closer together.
Today Biotope develop our nature shelter designs based on the character of the location, sight lines, ecological interest and prevailing wind- and weather conditions. Our designs carefully balance the need for visibility in order to concentrate and attract human activities, the practical requirements of niches like birdwatchers or nature photopgraphers, and sensitivity to the needs of the birds and wildlife we want to experience. The often small structures are thus kept as plain as possible, usually a shelter built around a basic seating, protected from snow, rain or wind by two, three or very occasionally four walls. For Biotope architecture is a tool to protect and promote birds, wildlife and nature. The very norwegian recreational «friluftsliv» relation to nature combined with a deep appreciation for the classical naturalist, knowledge based approach to nature is unique to Biotope. Today my job is to connect people with nature.»
Biotope founder and Design Director of Biotope UK