Inside Acne Studios’ brutalist HQ in Stockholm
To access the boardroom of Acne Studios’ new ten level HQ in Stockholm, guests and employees of the 20-year-old Swedish label must use a separate lift to shoot them up to the spacious sixth floor. For this secretly accessed area – with its sunken fireplace, stark straight-lined interior architecture and angular eaves – was once the private residence of the former Czechoslovakian Ambassador. Floragatan 13 – an imposing brutalist masterpiece, completed in 1972 by Jan Bočan and named by Acne Studios after the street it is located on – was first conceived as the Czechoslovakian Embassy. Aptly, co-founder and creative director of the brand Jonny Johansson uses a cryptographic analogy to describe its architectural overhaul.
‘The building has a strong aesthetic itself,’ Johansson says, of the space, which has a stark façade, constructed using bush hammered concrete and glass infills. ‘Then we sort of cracked the code of how to redesign it, and it went smoothly.’ This code cracking meant working in collaboration with Swedish architect Johannes Norlander, and taking the utopian ideals behind brutalist architecture, to create an interactive, inspiring and holistic environment, based around the concept of an ideas-flourishing fashion school. This includes four sleek design and production floors at the heart of the building, an inviting ground-floor library lined with shelves of reference books and winged Helmut Lang sculptures, and a basement level canteen, housed in the embassy’s former cinema.
The school concept is not just a nod to the experimental and interactive energy Johansson hopes to bring to the space. The creatives behind the HQ’s accompanying furniture and fixture design read as a visual honour roll of past collaborators who have worked on previous design projects with the house. British designer Max Lamb has created entrance room seating hewn from hunks of rusty Swedish granite, tables in tactile pewter and carved wood and hand tufted rugs in oceanic hues. London-based artist Daniel Silver has pieced together abstract collages, patchworked from surplus Acne Studios fabrics, and French designer and light artist Benoit Lalloz has created astonishing handblown lamps, in bulbous sugary pink tones, that illuminate the space in tessellated grids.
Natural materials-focused Lamb has worked with Acne Studios on a number of retail projects, including the brand’s Madison Avenue boutique, which opened in Manhattan in 2016. The space featured organically shaped bronze furniture and graphic columns hewn from semi precious stone. For its new HQ, Johansson enlisted Lamb to create a Viking graveyard in its entrance, with monolithic seating and benches, formed from slabs of Ivo granite, red granite and black Bassalt, resembling crooked tombstones. The boardroom’s wooden meeting table, with a tactile chiseled surface, appears like a medieval roundtable. ‘The first time I managed to do some stonework for Acne was in Milan in its Brera store which used the same granite as was clad on the outside of the original façade,’ Lamb says. ‘We’ve given the graphic, brutalist structure of this building some warmth with these more irregular organic shapes.’
Warmth is indeed integral to the building’s interior design flourishes, which with their abstract and bulbous shapes, colourful hues and raw finishses, bring a vibrant contrast to the building’s original mathematical design. ‘I just remember standing outside of our old office and just not wanting to go in,’ Johansson says of the original moment he decided to find a new home for Acne Studios’ HQ, over three years ago. Now, we think he’ll be hard pressed to leave. §