The Edge: Olle Lundberg on Problem Solving Architecture

April 01, 2014 4 min read

Olle Lundberg - Lundberg DesignNovedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do

Olle Lundberg: I am the CEO and Design Principal at Lundberg Design, which just celebrated its 27th anniversary in-business.

Novedge: On your website there's a very interesting description of your philosophy. Can you talk about your approach to design and architecture?

Olle Lundberg: Design is about composition – material, light, form, texture… and how all of those elements come together into something visually pleasing. We are always looking for new ways to express form – through the use of new materials, new techniques, or through unexpected expressions, such as utilizing repurposed objects.

Lundberg Design - Pacific Heights Residence 02 - Art Gray + Ryan Hughes

Architecture is about problem solving – making a space that functions properly. Design is a component of architecture, it is in fact what differentiates architecture from building, but it is only a part. Architecture is about solving practical issues – meeting a building’s functional requirements, creating shelter, providing comfort; then if you are good you use that as an opportunity to orchestrate a memorable spatial experience.

Lundberg Design - Pacific Heights Residence - Art Gray

Novedge: Architecture is often thought of as a solo profession, when in fact it's team work. How do you work with your team?

Olle Lundberg: On a typical project I interact with the client first: I learn about them and the site and the project program, from which I will develop an initial concept, usually in the form of a plan sketch. At that point the Project Architect will begin working with me to enter the sketch into Revit, which gets us to scale and also begins to drive the three-dimensional discussion. The two of us will work that way through Schematic Design, sometimes with others depending upon the project scale. As we move into Design Development consultants and more team members will join the team, and my involvement begins to lessen. I depend a lot on the PA to keep my vision, that initial diagram, intact. We are big believers in the power of the instinctual first response.

Lundberg Design - OTD 01 - Art Gray

Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on? 

Olle Lundberg: HardWater is an American Whiskey Bar that opened last year on Pier 3 in San Francisco. Although very small (it is only 1400 sq ft) we packed a lot of thought and detail into the end result. This is another one of our projects with Charles Phan (Slanted Door), and he and I wanted to do something that told a kind of story about American craft – about the making of American whiskey and New Orleans food, and in doing so make a place where you could have a memorable drink with a good friend.

Lundberg Design - HardWater 01 - Ryan Hughes

Lundberg Design - HardWater 02 - Ryan Hughes + Conner Wishard

Lundberg Design - HardWater 03 - Ryan Hughes

Novedge: Your firm also designs and manufactures furniture and other architectural elements. Can you talk about your process in creating these pieces?

Olle Lundberg: We make one-of-a-kind pieces, sort of architectural sculpture for our projects. We often use found objects and reclaimed materials, mostly because I just like them visually, and I like the patina of age and the history they bring to the composition.

Lundberg Design - Autodesk 02 - K M Dale Tan

Novedge: What software do you use? 

Olle Lundberg: We are on Revit (Autodesk), and have been converts for 7 years now. We were absolutely one of the first small firms to embrace it, and in my opinion it is without question the future of building documentation. It is a fantastic documentation program, but not quite as good for design, although it is improving every day. The challenge with the program is that it wishes you knew everything about the building and were now just trying to document it, but that is also its power – it explains the building as a three-dimensional object from day one. Everyone in my office is incredibly proficient in it, except of course me. I still get to use napkins and yellow pads.

Lundberg Design - SLT Baylands Center 01- K M Dale Tan

Lundberg Design - SLT Baylands Center 02- K M Dale Tan

Novedge: What innovations do you find most exciting in architecture?

Olle Lundberg: I do think Revit is a remarkable revolution in how we draw architecture. Building Information Management (BIM) software imagines a building process that is far more seamless than the traditional architect/contractor relationship – a far more collaborative one. We are only starting to reimagine that, but it will I believe change the way most buildings are realized. But this is probably truer for large buildings, and I have to admit I enjoy smaller projects. I like craft and the hand of the craftsman – the individuality that is expressed in that type of work. We strive for one-of-a-kind moments, expressions that are unique to our clients and that project, which is an old fashioned way of looking at things. It has nothing to do with digital printing or pre-fab construction, which are interesting innovations but which don’t hold much interest for me I’m afraid.

Lundberg Design - Autodesk 01 - Ryan Hughes

Novedge: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self before embarking in your current career?

Olle Lundberg: Don’t buy any boats (I used to own a 130 ft Icelandic Car Ferry


See more of Olle's work on his website and on Twitter. And connect with Lundberg Design on Facebook.

Curly and Carney at Lundberg Design


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