The World’s Best Restaurant Gets A Chilly, Nordic Redesign

Copenhagen’s Noma has been named the world’s best place to eat for three years running. We talk to the design team behind their Nordic style.

“We are born and have grown up in the north, we are Scandinavians, so that is our background and cultural heritage. But we also find the stereotype look perceived as Nordic a bit boring and misconceived.”


That’s Signe Bindslev Henriksen, a partner at Space Architecture & Design in Copenhagen. And if you’re a foodie, it’s impossible for you to have missed one of their most famous clients: Noma.

For three years in a row–ever since elBulli closed, actually–Noma has been named the Best Restaurant in the World. They’ve billed themselves as “A Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine.” And it’s from this same philosophy–the identity of a culture now–that Space recently redesigned Noma’s interior.

“To us Nordic is not a certain look, it is more a certain feel, a preference of composing space and using organic materials, an atmosphere, an interest in nature, a need for the tactile, personal, and honest,” Henriksen tells Co.Design. “That can take form in many different ways–it can be melancholic and dark, rough or smooth, light and poetic. So we worked from our intuition of a dreamy atmosphere that seemed in sync with the building and the philosophy of the cuisine rather than to follow a certain style.”

When Noma opened, that atmosphere was traditionally warm, a dining room browned like crisp toast. Now, it’s shifted to instill a Scandinavian chill. Their creation is a bit of a paradox. Earthy materials like new oak flooring, furred seats, leather, and brass mix with colder stone and black and white hues. The team calls it “a balance between the rough and the refined detail and elegance.” I find the results more visceral. Like walking on a still winter day with every bit of your skin wrapped in layers, you can sense the frost in the air. Your mind sharpens as survival instincts kick in, but your body is perfectly comfortable.

“In the beginning, we all thought that Noma should be turned upside down, that we should do something completely new and unexpected. After quite a long initial sketching period, we all came to the conclusion that it seemed forced and pretentious for a place like Noma to do something too conceptual or formally upscale–whether it was modern, nostalgic or a mix,” Henriksen writes. “The chef, Rene Redzepi, defined his vision: It is important that the space is not perceived as a superficial layer between the customer and the actual food experience.”

See more here. Or (try to) book reservations here.


[Hat tip: Dezeen]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.