Bølgen Cultural Center

Finally moving into the culture house

Bølgen (The Wave) is the cultural center in the town of Larvik. It is designed by architect Niels Torp and got its name from its distinctive roof. The house has a total area of over 4500 m2. Bølgen’s goal is to be a social and cultural meeting point for the municipality's own citizens and visitors alike.

The Brief: Bølgen faced challenges because of insufficient amounts of visitors. People were going to the cinema and concerts, but very few would arrive an hour before the show or choose to stay with friends afterwards. Neither the interior nor the services motivated guests to stay any longer then they had to. In the daytime, with no or fewer cultural happenings, very few guests used the facilities. As a result, Bølgen decided to upgrade its public areas stylistically by incorporating opportunities for social recreation and dining. Furthermore, they requested a holistic concept for a design with interior solutions that focused on meeting the needs of the visitor, expanding the use of the facilities in pre- and post-visits and lowering the threshold for visiting Bølgen regardless of cultural happenings.

Comte Bureau solution: We teamed up with interior architects Zinc and interaction-/service designers fluxLoop. Through a thorough insight process including employees, users and – perhaps most important – non-users, we found critical points and potentials. The wishes and needs directly inspired the solutions. A few examples of these challenges/needs and solutions are as followed:

Due to lack of consistency in opening hours and also with regards to which doors were used and when, the guests were usually confused. We created a more consistent routine, and also moved the café entrance to the other end of the building, with greater proximity to the new café bar.

The ceiling height in the main hall is enormous, and the building materials are mainly made of steel and glass. The users found the interior cold. They wanted a cozier atmosphere and a natural, warm and wooden feel. Some answers to these challenges were that we lowered the ceiling using pendular lamps, arranged more intimate seating groups, used wooden elements – compromising with the needs of the employees (“we do not want wooden table tops!”).

Many users, especially parents on maternity/paternity leave wanted to be able to have lunch in the Bølgen café. This group needed facilities for playing, as well as areas where they could prepare milk, porridge etc. Here, we designed a mini kitchen for the guests and a huge playing chest – open in day hours, but closed in the evening.

The glass elevator, especially built for taking wheelchairs and baby strollers to the first floor felt awkward to use. The users felt as if they were “on display”. On the other hand people were flocking and created “traffic jams” in the cinema area. People going to Sanden Stage didn’t know where to go. We killed two birds with one stone here by covering the elevator with a huge sign to pull the guests in the correct direction.

The users stated that there had been different restaurant concepts at Bølgen, but some were too posh and others were just not right. The users wanted honest food like rye bread, liver paté, heering and burgers. The price that guests were willing to pay for a double cappuccino was around NOK 36,-. Now the menu is catered accordingly.

We were present at the opening and the citizens of Larvik seemed proud of their new place – a place which they had been a part of re-designing. More than one guest said Bølgen now has a more cosmopolitan feel to it!