Touch Stones

From a restaurant in Spain, to a residence in Mexico, a cultural center in South Korea, to a museum in Morocco, among the 20 doors around the world open to readers of a lavish new book by the visionaries behind Kinfolk and Norm Architects, which 3 standout for one co-creator?

Jonas Bjerre Poulsen of the Copenhagen powerhouse Norm Architects not only extends his imprint of product design for a litany of brands, interior projects for private and commercial clients, and art direction for campaigns and print. He also points a seasoned eye as a photographer, including on this new book from Gestalten, The Touch: Spaces Designed for the Senses, realized with creative collaborator and friend Nathan Williams, the founder of fellow Danish global brand Kinfolk.

In addition to rare interviews and a rich appendix, the profiled sites in the nearly 5-pound coffee table book explore how they are individually defined by elements such as nature, light, materiality, color and, most compellingly, community. With so many hotels, homes, museums and shops stunningly featured in the hefty book, many photographed by Jonas, in addition to the revealing Q+A also featured on The Edit, we asked him to share 3 sites that continue to standout for him:


1 Tomba Brion, San Vito d'Altivole near Treviso, Italy

Ever since I started living in Copenhagen at age 19, going to the cemetery to walk, talk and think has been a special thing for me. Living at that time in Nørrebro, I had a big, beautiful and inviting cemetery, a few minutes from my apartment, and it was the perfect place to reflect alone or have good conversations with friends while strolling though the cemetery. Paradoxically, the place was filled with life. Everywhere I travel, I always love to visit cemeteries, even though traditions on how these places are used by the local community can be very different from how we use them in Denmark. 

Contemplating on the idea of community for The Touch, the Tomba Brion came to mind. It might be a mausoleum, but it feels very welcoming. Also Carlo Scarpas’ amazing project has always held a special place in my heart. I spent a full year in architecture school studying the work of Carlo Scarpa, and he has had a big influence on my work later on as both an architect and designer. 


2 Bijuu Residence Hotel, Kyoto, Japan

I have always been extremely fascinated with Japan. There is a connection, admiration and inspiration between Scandinavia and Japan that flows both ways. Both cultures are particular about details, both pursue simplicity, both prefer spare beauty rather than decorative, and both have sympathy for craft works and natural materials.

In Kyoto, this tradition of nature and the built environment is interwoven in a very poetic way that seems effortless, despite the high level of refinement there. Experiencing the Bijuu Residence as a physical interpretation of the city, but in a very colorful and contemporary manner, yet still natural, was a big discovery for me. It was inspirational to see the use of natural materials—that in our office often end up being tones of grey and brown—into a colorful contrasted space, that still had all the haptic, tactile and human-centric properties of a space designed for the senses.


3 Yakumo Saryo. Tokyo, Japan

In times of rapid urbanization architects and designers all over the world work to reconnect man with nature. In both Scandinavia and Japan, there is a long and strong connection with nature that is evident in the design traditions of both countries. Big parts of both Scandinavia and Japan are heavily forested and can experience long, dark winters, hence their affinity for wooden furniture and love of natural light in architecture. Now, more than ever, there is a need for natural and haptic interiors that can connect modern urban dwellers with a sense of nature in the big cities.

Yakumo Saryo offers that reconnection with nature in the middle of Tokyo. There are parts of the compound that conjure Jun'ichirō Tanizaki´s In Praise of Shadows, as you enter some of the very dimly lit dining areas, while other parts of the place have big glass facades that lets in natural daylight in abundance. Throughout the space, materials are used in new and exciting ways, lending a simultaneous traditional and contemporary feel. I was especially taken by the dark patterned concrete floors, made by mixing charcoal into the concrete and laying out tatami mats while the concrete was wet to obtain that special structure of the surface that mimed the original tatami.

Photo Credits:
YakumoSaryo and BijuuResidence by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen, p. 18 and 161, The Touch Kinfolk & Norm Architects, gestalten 2019
Tomba Brion by Christian Møller Andersen, p. 220, The Touch Kinfolk & Norm Architects, gestalten 2019
Book cover courtesy of Gestalten