Malene Hvidt

Spacon & X architect Malene Hvidt talks to Fritz Hansen about the importance of heritage and her firm's holistic approach to design.

Malene Hvidt has expertise in any area of design you could care to mention: from making clothes to putting up buildings, from furniture to spatial design. Which is good news for Copenhagen-based Spacon & X, a design and architecture firm that takes a holistic view of its projects. As a partner in the firm, her clients include Rene Redzepi (of Noma fame) and Adidas, and Spacon & X has picked up a spate of awards for its forward-thinking creations. Here, Hvidt tells us about how her background has influenced her work and the guiding principles behind her company.

How has your family background impacted the work you do?

As time goes on, I’m realising how much my heritage has affected me. I grew up in an architect family: my father's an architect and my grandfather too. In the 1940s, my grandfather started Hvidt & Mølgaard. The company is best known for its furniture but it worked on all sorts of projects, such as designing one of the biggest bridges in Denmark. My grandfather died the year I was born, so I never really met him – but the process of rediscovering him and his designs, getting to know his humble-yet-uncompromising approach to design and craftsmanship, has been really important to me. 

Tell me about the home you grew up in. 

When we moved 30 minutes out of the city just for a house, I didn’t understand. Now that I’m older, I see it from a different perspective. It was designed by Halldor Gunnløgsson, my father’s academy professor and a renowned architect. The building is incredible, with its perfectly balanced tectonics and it’s always so full of light. The way my family filled the space was special too; we always had a mixture of Scandinavian and Japanese design influences visible in the objects around us growing up. 

At Spacon & X you approach design holistically, from the building’s exterior to the layout of a room and the objects that populate it. How did this come about?

Initially, we were working on projects for people living and working in the city. This meant maximising the use of all the square metres in the most efficient way – and so we had projects that would deal with everything, from the small-scale to the large. Thanks to this, we have been able to work on projects from office design and retail to building design and eco villages. And we recently launched a furniture line with E15, which was really special for me. Working though the scales from architecture to furniture design is something I have always wanted to do.

How do you divide your work as a team?

My two partners founded the company in 2014 and I joined in 2015. We each have different specialisms: Nikoline Dyrup Carlsen is an architect who has worked on large-scale buildings; Svend Jacob Pedersen has a background in art history, advertising and fashion. My experience cuts across those areas, as I’ve worked in architecture and fashion. This range allows us to attend to an amazing range of projects. And beside the three of us, we have a full constellation of architects, carpenters, building constructors, design engineers, product designers and more – allowing us to direct all aspects of design from our studio. And I believe that design strengthens through diversity, as it questions and challenges conformist approaches to architecture and design. 

You create housing projects too. Is this reflective of your ethos as a company? 

When it comes to multi-resident housing, it’s about balancing beauty with functionality. But it’s important to recognise that it isn’t an either/or decision. By looking at how people use their space, we can make a building beautiful by making it perfectly suit their needs and the surroundings. It’s the same when we make private houses. What matters is making sure we really understand the rituals of an everyday life – of what makes each space home. 

Image credit: Barbara Hvidt