Photography by Andris Søndrol Visdal
There’s a certain venue in a certain part of Oslo that doesn’t quite look like a wine bar, but certainly is one. Professional staff, world-renowned wine and coffee, ham from a well-loved pizza place a few blocks away, and interiors by decorators with a workshop just around the corner—everything high quality and everything curated from the local territory where the owners spend their days. Hence the name: Territoriet.
Grünerløkka is one of those areas every major western city seems to have, that’s too hip for its own good. Once a working class district, its steady gentrification process has earned it a costly real estate profile that speaks to two types: creatives, and those who feed off acreative lifestyle. Bursting with vintage clothing, studio apartments, bikes, money, concept cafés and a wide range of competence, Grünerløkka is a meeting of worlds where identity and quality coexist and are available on demand, making it a struggle to create something local and sustainable of your own.
Sigve Aspelund and Rudolf Reim knew all of this when they started talking over the hedge, quite literally, between their neighbouring houses. Laughing about how much fun it would be to own and hang out at a bar they'd built themselves, they discussed the concept of such a place, and what interests and ideas they could each cram into this shared little dream. Just two full-grown men with families who met to project a hypothetical life unto one another.
–It was all just talk until I stumbled upon this venue, Sigve says. –Someone called me and said that it was up for grabs and, if we wanted it, we had to decide now. So I walked over to Rudolf and said we had a chance to go all in. And so we did.
They started a bar without knowing anything about the game. The mystery had to be unraveled, and being who they were, a photographer and a music producer, they knew what the first step into this dark and unexplored area had to be: find someone who knows.
–We hired a manager, a 24-year-old sommelier who knew more than we’ll ever know about wine. We think it’s so cool to focus on the young, the hungry ones where all the exciting thoughts and ideas come from. They get high when they see the bar filling up with people. They don’t stress. They thrive in it.
Sigve is asked to take a few steps back and talk about his early years as a photographer, before he found that ease you only see in self-reflecting grown ups with a sense of direction. If you dissect his story, it becomes easy to understand how a guy like this could start a bar on the side, just like that.
First off, Sigve is a self-taught photographer. He doesn’t have any higher education and he’s never had what you might call a steady job. After finding photography as a channel of expression when he went to boarding school, he pursued it through his teenage years, learning the different techniques of the analogue era and the excitement of darkroom printing, before the rise of the digital camera streamlined the future.
Sigve went through the motions like any other young photographer, starting off as an assistant, before embarking on a career as a commercial photographer and hiring assistants of his own. He even worked as a travel photographer for a while, getting paid to sleep on planes and visit countries he’d never visit otherwise, before flying off to a new place. But even that grew old after a while.
–I’ve been a photographer for twenty years. I started early. But the last ten years haven’t really given me the excitement I felt in the beginning. I used to wake up at night because of how important the next day’s job was. But now that I’m quite experienced, the fear and tension I feel as a photographer is gone.
The sleepless nights are gone because photography no longer offers Sigve any newness. All of his life, he has jumped from one project to the next, always finding new work and new ways of asking more of himself to keep the excitement going.
–I want to do something new all the time, Sigve says. –Make stuff, build a bar, deliver a photoshoot. Do stuff. That’s what I think of as fun.
Adversity builds character, which is why it felt so right for Sigve to dive headfirst into the wine bar business when the opportunity arose. It wasn’t just about how cool it would be to open a bar, it was a convenient excuse to vent some of the restless energy he’s always carried with him. Most creatives find ways to interpret or redirect their yearn to express. Territoriet is the manifestation of that yearn—a physical space where a group of friends, who also happen to be design geeks, can shape its four walls and everything in-between.
They didn’t want it to look like a wine bar, though. And besides the dimly-lit wine cabinet behind the bar, the place isn’t decorated with grapes or wine barrels or any other generic wine bar adornment.
It’s the same thing with the music. Instead of having a playlist offering up a constant hit parade, Rudolf has put together a collection of vinyls, mostly rock, they can spin at any given time. And sure, they know there’s nothing new about playing vinyls at a bar, but playing entire albums instead of never-ending playlists has, according to Sigve, more charm to it. It leads to this moment, when the album is finished and the music stops, where the room takes a breather and the person in charge has to come out from behind the bar, walk through the crowd to the other end of the room, use his or her hands to shuffle through the collection of vinyls, and select a new album to play, from start to finish.
And they must have done something right with the place because, not even two years in, they’re already set to open another wine bar in Stockholm this autumn, with the help of Swede Jonas Sandberg, acclaimed ex-sommelier of Fäviken Magasinet, a remote and highly acclaimed restaurant in northern Sweden.
And if opening a new bar wasn’t enough, Sigve has also transitioned from a photographer to a director of commercials—a craft that is so multifaceted and different from anything he’s ever done, he finally feels young again. So you would think all of this newness in such a short period of time would be enough reinvention to occupy Sigve’s restlessness for a while. But then again;
–It’s all cool and all, but it’s hard for me to feel ownership for a bar as far away as Stockholm. I’m just like a weekend-dad who comes to visit every once in awhile. I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to find something new already. Actually, the other day I was suddenly inspired to make our own vodka. Just out of the blue.