Architect firm Förstberg Ling
on profit margins versus quality of life
Known for its use of unconventional materials and inquisitive approach to projects, Malmö-based architect firm Förstberg Ling is the result of an architecture school friendship. In their synergistic partnership, founders Björn Förstberg and Mikael Ling are both dreamers and project managers, but where Björn has the big picture in mind, Mikael is the perfectionist. For their latest project, Twelve Houses – a block with residential townhouses in Sorgenfri, the oldest industrial area in Malmö – they have added the role of property developers to their repertoire. With full control of the process, they have reached an uncompromising result that fully displays their abilities and intentions.
Björn Förstberg and Mikael Ling founded the architecture and design firm Förstberg Ling in 2015. The projects, which range from furniture and objects to buildings and interiors, are designed with both a technical and an aesthetic perspective. Designing with integrity and longevity in mind, Förstberg Ling makes conscious decisions about concepts and materials.
Micha van Dinther
TNE What has your creative process looked like for the Twelve Houses project?
FL The creative process essentially looks the same for all of our architectural projects, including Twelve Houses. To us, it is about finding an intersection between soft aesthetic values and functions and hard technical solutions as well as legal constraints. We constantly strive to shift our focus during the development, zooming in and out between widely separated areas – planning regulations and frame solutions, waterproofing issues and kitchen details, surface treatment and energy efficiency aspects. The goal is to create and finish a project that feels both obvious and surprising.
TNE What made you take on the role of both architect and property developer?
FL One reason was to create work at a time when there was a little less for us to do. Another reason was to be able to control the entire building process and make choices informed by an overall idea. We feel that we have achieved a more elaborate result and are convinced that it is noticeable to the residents and visitors.
TNE Why do you think that your choices of materials are considered non-traditional?
FL We choose materials that functionally and emotionally feel right for their purpose. The fact that they are seen as non-traditional likely has more to do with the construction industry in general. It endeavours to become streamlined to the point where profit margins rule without regard to the built environment. We work almost exclusively with straightforward materials that are allowed to retain their inherent properties and that wear over time without looking worse. It also means that the buildings as a whole become environmentally sound.
TNE What are your thoughts on property development cities such as your home base Malmö into better, more sustainable and inclusive?
FL Today’s property development and construction is rather boring and uninspired. Residential parcels of land are emerging at a speed that leaves little time to consider good living spaces. The major contributing factor, we would say, is the profit margins that many developers demand and have become accustomed to. The simple answer is that more care and consideration is needed at all levels. It is easy to say but difficult to implement. We attempt to take a comprehensive approach and make it feasible instead of starting from the least expensive basis and then embellishing it as an afterthought to appear of higher quality. A prime example is how we worked with the actual structure of Twelve Houses, with different floor heights and levels. Or that we keep our buildings ‘sincere’ with fewer elements but of higher quality.
“The simple answer is that more care and consideration is needed at all levels. It is easy to say but difficult to implement.”