Ministry of Color
David Sokol -- Interior Design, 3/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Appointed Denmark's Minister for Culture at only 35 years old, Brian Mikkelsen was thinking about hiring young talent to renovate the anteroom to his office at the Danish Ministry of Culture in Copenhagen. But thinking was about as far as he'd gotten—before he hosted a creative session to meet artists and designers and discuss culture. It was there that he encountered the namesake principal of Louise Campbell Studio, an up-and-coming firm that had been mostly designing furniture. Still, Mikkelsen was clearly impressed.
Campbell insists she didn't campaign for the commission. "I was in a talkative mood that day," she recalls. "A month later, I got the job."
She began by ripping out the 1,300-square-foot room's cubicles from the 1960's, returning the space to its original 1850 grandeur and painting the walls and ceiling white. Then she designed five cubical open frames with curtains on two sides. Reflecting the culture ministry's youthful spirit, the cubes also express the function of individual inhabitants via color, chosen with the help of footwear and lighting designer Marianne Britt Jørgensen and textile designer Anne Fabricius Møllers.
Each powder-coated steel frame is the exact color of the fabric used for the curtains and for a pendant fixture's loosely draped shade—all hand-dyed by Jørgensen and Møllers in Campbell's bathtub. The desks, accessories, and rugs match, too. So does upholstery on the padded seats of chairs by Charles and Ray Eames.
The two departmental secretaries, always organized and clearheaded, sit in an ice-blue cube. Almond is for the calm office manager. The deep red of the cube for the private and administration secretaries suggests the constant emergencies that plague these two functionaries. Petal pink represents the nurturing dispositions of Mikkelsen's two closest assistants—the punching bag suspended from their cube's frame accommodates a change of mood.
The frames' integrated tracks allow staffers to personalize their space further with paintings borrowed from the Danish State Museum of Arts. "The frame is a form of cradling," Campbell explains. "With its own curtain, its own color, it gives the feeling that it's your own little house."
If the cubes are houses, then the open space along one window wall is a road leading to Mikkelsen's office. This circulation route—used by up to 250 visitors a day—is demarcated by a strip of the same powder-blue carpet that appears in the rest of the ministry. Between the eight windows, the designers painted slender swaths of neon yellow and installed clear glass panels on 5-inch steel bolts, so notices for cultural happenings can be slipped behind. In a flashier move to hold visitors' attention, Campbell installed eight of Tom Dixon's Mirror Ball pendant globes in a row overhead. It doesn't get much younger than that.