What does Scandinavian design look like on the expansive scale of North America? Michael Sørensen, partner at Henning Larsen, relocated to New York City in 2019 to take a more hands-on role in developing our future in the US, Canada and beyond. We sat down with him to learn more about how Scandinavian design can adapt to the demands of a new market.
I’ve been working in the North American market for the last four years, as the lead on our projects in Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and Toronto. So I have a fundamental understanding of what is needed and what is sought after from us in this market, especially as Scandinavian architects. It was a very natural choice for me to relocate and support our work here – I could choose to live my life in an airplane back and forth above the Atlantic, or I could put my feet on the ground and be here with our clients, creating a real dialogue about projects.
There is a lot of Henning Larsen DNA in the New York studio – A third of our staff relocated here from our Copenhagen office. I’m excited to take the helm during this time, and to live in New York – It’s a big new step for myself and my family.
In 2015, we were invited as one of three firms to complete for the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center. We dove into that competition wholeheartedly, and though we didn’t end up winning, we made a lot of great connections and saw a lot of potential for our work here – Not only in the cultural realm, but for civic projects, masterplans, offices, and universities. We found a lot of interest in our experience as Scandinavian architects, our research-based design process, and a collaborative approach. We ended up winning five big projects in North America within a year and a half, and the ball was rolling. The way we like to work is through collaboration; it’s a discussion with the users. That approach to architecture really requires us to be physically present, so that’s what I think really drove this. We want to be here with the teams we’re working with, so we can create the best possible product.