Normann Copenhagen’s designs respond to social settings – just as people do

COPENHAGEN – The Kunsthal Charlottenborg exhibition centre was transformed last month for the (known as CPH:DOX), one of the largest film festivals of its kind in the world.

The old palace building was filled with custom-made Normann Copenhagen furniture for the festival, arranged in thematic clusters to create designated spaces – including viewing rooms, a padded VR screening room, and Denmark’s first social cinema. From the foyer to the banquet hall, the installation-like décor – curated by CPH:DOX’s creative collective and Normann Copenhagen designers Hans Hornemann and Britt Bonnesen – covers more than 1,300 sq-m.

Outfitted exclusively with Normann Copenhagen furniture, the scenography reflects the visual identity of CPH:DOX with a bright, natural palette juxtaposed against an industrial and artificial atmosphere through the use of neon signs and synthetic materials like latex and silvery aluminium fabric.

'We took CPH:DOX's colour universe and used repetitions and colour accents to compose a visual theme,' says Britt Bonneson. 'For example, landings on the staircases between the foyer and the first floor are decorated with rows of poufs in blush velvet, creating a link between the different environments on the two floors.'

Oversized sofa installations with portable poufs punctuate the exhibition centre, providing comfortable moving islands for relaxation and discussion. The contemporary shades of the velvet sofas, and the postmodern chandeliers reinterpret the grandeur of the former palace for filmgoers.

‘We have attempted to create changeable spaces that the visitors can occupy and transform according to their needs,’ says Normann Copenhagen designer Hans Hornemann. ‘Spaces that invite you to get closer to each other.’

The concept of spaces with designated social functions in this large-scale interior project begins with the electric-blue Everyday Room. The enveloping monochrome lounge area was the hub for various events during the festival, and is furnished as a "conversation kitchen" with bar stools around a high table for casual chats as well as listening to inspirational talks and panel debates.

Visitors to the Everyday Room can seat themselves on the large, square poufs that spread around the blue room like ice floes on an open sea. All of the elements are mobile, so the scenography can adapt according to each new event. The CPH:DOX creative collective explains that the scenography of a kitchen was chosen as an intimate, familiar space to counter the 'constant chaos' of the room's multiple functions.

The Everyday Room contrasts greatly against the universe of warm colours that permeates the rest of the building to emphasize the narrative of standing out from the crowd.

Colours can be seen as a narrative tool throughout the scenography. Further in the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Denmark’s very first social design cinema has custom-made rows of sofa seating for 250 guests. Composed of Normann Copenhagen's modular Rope sofa, the Social Cinema aims to bring people together for a shared film experience in a casual and intimate environment. The long, integrated rows of sofas blur the boundaries between friends and strangers, an informal atmosphere emphasized by the warm and iridescent shades of the upholstery, a palette inspired by human skin and hair.

The walls of the Social Cinema are draped in the same recycled textiles used for the sofas – the curtains cover the entire height and length of the space, providing both acoustic dampening as well as a warm and comfortable material environment for the cinema audience.

The human element also extends to the Virtual Reality Cinema, where a platoon of swivelling chairs stand in neat columns and rows in an otherwise empty room. Here, visitors can travel to alternate universes using the latest VR technology while leaving their bodies behind in safety and privacy, with thick, springy foam plastic padding the walls and a latex curtain screening the room.

‘The texture of the foam plastic and latex almost resemble skin or flesh,’ explains the CPH:DOX Creatve Collective. ‘These are very tactile materials, that you want to touch, but they are also a little disgusting and repulsive.’

The furnishings emphasise the ambiguous expression of the scenography and the raw narrative content of the film festival. While the swivelling chairs permit a certain freedom of movement, the set-up of the chairs has militaristic associations, and the foam plastic walls and latex curtains offer both protection and restriction. The contrast-filled scenography reflects the design team’s overall goal of creating a framework that is not purely attractive, but in line with the festival's format – a reflective, boundary-pushing and conceptual approach to film.

For more inspirational event design projects, check out the book Happening 2 .  

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