Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

Small talk

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

Architect, building a heritage. Pernilla believes that architecture is about existentialism, about being a human in the world. Her life philosophy is practice. To learn and explore with the whole body, not just with the eyes and with words. This all seems so evident when visiting Pernilla Wåhlin Norén and her family in Dala-Floda. Pernilla, her husband Gustaf, and their kids Josef, 14 , Edith, 11, Bror, 9, Salka, 6, Moses, 3 lives at the homestead with all the senses deeply involved in life.   

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

“This house was built in the 19th century, and was last inhabited by two violinists and carpenter brothers. Before them, three sisters, ‘Månseskullorna’ lived here. We bought the house in 2009, and since no one has lived here since the 1960’s, it was entirely run down. The timber frame was raised with four laps, allowed for more rooms upstairs. The residential building has been renovated with period methods and materials, while the old carpentry has been given a more contemporary look, adapted into a atelier where we have workshops and studio sessions.” 

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

“i love my garden. we have an incredible vegetable farmer in the village, we can invest in what we are particularly interested in. For me, flax and wool now apply. Fibers, things that can be spun.”

“I am an architect and a crafter. I was educated at the KTH School of Architecture in house architecture, but I work with city architecture nowadays. I added to my degree with studies in urban planning, garden planning, and cultural heritage, so I could work with everything from detail to urban planning. Architectural thinking is applicable everywhere, whether it’s designing a chair or a city – it’s a question of human needs. The best thing with my work is the path, through the entire process, from start to finish.

I live in Dalarna, where I was born. Living here makes me feel at home. It’s close to my family, and it’s close to the landscape my body best communicates with, the forest. Dalarna, for me, is craft, the knowledge of different kinds of material, the process of working with them, and listening to the place.

My family is big. My husband and I have many kids, and we also have lots of siblings. So consequently, our kids have lots of cousins. We never planned on how many kids we would have, but both me and my husband have three siblings each, so we are used to this structure of life, I guess. We actually practice what we preach, and so we let the kids participate in whatever we do. Either it’s laundry, crafting, playing instruments or eating dinner. We do it together. They do go out on their own adventures though. Me and my husband, not so often. But, I don’t feel like we have don’t have enough time for ourselves, and our relationship. We’ve been on this earth with eachother longer than whitout, and we are experts on how to give eachother attention. We like to spend time at dinner for instance. Summer evenings we go for a swim in the river. Or, if it’s dark, we go out to look for the fire flies that lives in our forest. To live with a musician is to live with a craftsman. For a musician, everything is about the process. There is constant playing going on all the time. Music for me is therefore craft. It’s a practice.

 

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

My experience to giving birth to five children, is that life is crazy and chaotic, but so much fun. All of them is born in Stockholm except Josef. He is 14 years old, and have lived most of his life there. He is a true gamer, but he also plays the piano and contrabass. He challenges us with his sharp mind, and you could say that he is the philosopher of the family. Edith, 11, is the one who comes up with ideas. We cannot have one dinner without her making a speech, or a game for us to play, or a quest for us to solve. She plays the cello. Bror, 9 years old, is the kindest person you’ll ever meet. He gets along with everyone, and is too kind mostly. If he could choose, he would just play football all the time. His instrument is trumpet. Salka, who is 6, is like Milla, the friend of Alfons Åberg. She likes to invent things and to work with her hands. She also plays the cello. Moses, 3 years old, with the most amazing humor. He doesn’t play an instrument yet, but he is our little singer.

My inspiration is other women and their craft. The elderly women in Dala-Floda master both the ax, the knife, the sewing needle, and the violin. And mom and my grandma who taught me everything about textile fabrics and techniques. Borlänge, where I come from, has a strong textile history.
A story that unfortunately is not told so much. Maybe because it’s the history of women?

Some sights I think everybody should visit, are Asplund’s and Lewerentz’s chapels and churches. Like Lewerentz’s chapel in Borlänge. Or St Markus’s church in Björkhagen. Or the Skogskyrkogården Cemetery. Oh, and the flower shop in the eastern cemetery of Malmö by Lewerentz, that’s a treat.

My favorite material is wood. Durable, beautiful, renewable, and already perfectly designed for this world. Grows of sun and water, absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and stores it for hundreds of years.

I am not afraid of listening. To people, places, and houses.

My life philosophy is practice. By that, I mean doing things. I believe in the meaning and power of actually being absorbed in a process. To learn and explore with your whole body, not just with your eyes and through somebody’s words. Architecture is about being human. It’s about existential questions. That means architecture is a verb, and has to be learned through practice.

My dream place is at a big dinner table, eating with friends and family.

When I restored this house, I focused on the logic of the place. Architects tend to speak about the soul of a place. By that, they mean you need to listen to the place and learn, not imitate. So, even if these buildings are old, I choose the kinds of material that communicate with the place. A part of our house is an old carpentry. I didn’t design that part as a home from 1890s, as I did with the part of the house that was home back, in 1890. Listen to the place and the building. Take time, don’t rush. Use methods and materials that are characteristic of the building. Preserve, reuse, save, and repair rather than change. Lean on the logic of the building, not the intention that it should look old.

The things that make me feel good is newly bathed, calmly sleeping children in clean, mangled sheets.

A truly remembering experience was when I discovered the church room. The first time was a wooden chapel when I was a kid. When I got older, me and my parents visited Rome, walking from church to church. After that I lived in France, and I just couldn’t understand how those great gothic churches were made. They were so full of divinity for everyone to experience and feel at any time.

When I think of the future, I reflect on the role of the architect. Architecture is about empathy. This means we need to have the capacity to put ourselves in somebody else’s situation. This suggests that the architect, traditionally a male job, is a perfectly fitting job for a woman.”

When I need to get my shit together, I go out for a run. Or, even better, I go out and dance.

The most important thing for me when it comes to relationships is kindness and love.

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

My favorite material is wood. Durable, beautiful, renewable, and already perfectly designed for this world. Grows of sun and water, absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and stores it for hundreds of years.

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

“Twice a year, we bake sift bread from old recipes, together with the others in the village. But since the bread is consumed relatively quickly, we bake at home as well. It takes all day to heat the fire wood oven, and the heat last all day, so it is often pizza for dinner. You can set a clay pot on a slow cooker overnight as well. The oven is the best! And the underground storehouse …”

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

“The studio is an adjusted barn, but the outside is unchanged. The open shutters have become windows.” 

Pernilla Wåhlin Norén
Pernilla Wåhlin Norén

Visit Pernillas blog here at TheWayWePlay.

Published October 8, 2021