The brainchild of designers Birgitta Ralston and Alexandre Bau, Transplant is a design competence centre located deep in the fjords of Western Norway – a region that has just been rated ‘world’s best tourist destination’ by National Geographic. Another good reason to discover this rare example of a creative transplantation far from the big smoke, which for two years now has been helping businesses to regenerate and re-create.
Primarily, Transplant is a venue for seminars and workshops, hosting both the Ralston & Bau design studio as well as a materials library put together in partnership with the Innovathèque in Paris. However, the magic would not have happened without the place and the people. Deep in the silent and suave purity of the Dalsfjord, the building designed by Attila Eris, an architect with the Renzo Piano Workshop, is a 600 m2 contemporary building of four interconnected modules, dedicated to workshops, talks and living together in the wilds.
Like an open book facing the water, it’s external walls designed by the co-founders of Transplant are a trompe l’oeil in relief, suggesting a sheaf of white pages, tempting inspiration, whose edges separate the building’s various functions.
Ralston & Bau (he is French, she is Swedish) are the prime movers behind the centre. Logical enough, except that both are engaged in parallel careers and have just completed the fit-out of the ‘Sous les Cerisiers’ restaurant in Paris, they are fully committed to contemporary creation and act as coaches for the seminars and workshops, which are anything but cop-out holidays for arthritic young design fogies…
Blending art, research, trends and design with the applied pragmatism of Scandinavia, they adapt the content of their interventions to fit the culture of the firms that come to see them, amongst which are many prestige names. Teams who are ready to go to the limits to find what they are looking for, or simply to re-focus in a unique setting where the experience of silence is a sure-fire stimulus to tap the springs of inspiration.
Two years have seen Transplant succeed, as a model for the kind of decentralization lots of local leaders would envy: a perfect match between re-location from an urban centre and local culture. One feeding the other in close symbiosis and not just paying lip service at a respectful distance. This is an example that runs counter to the clichés – one to keep an eye on.