Allowing a Process to Flourish And Grow

Architect  Johnathon Lloyd Little on the creative process.
Photography by Michael Ray Vera


I like to start the creative process with a sit down with my colleagues, where we share ideas and thoughts about the brief. At this time there are no bosses around the table, we're all on the same level, free to express our ideas. This part and the sharing is crucial, it's where you'll discover the best solutions.

Is it something that will inspire me to get out of bed in the morning, is it something that will keep me thinking until the early hours? If so, then it is a project worth engaging with. 

My name is Johnathon Lloyd Little. I moved to Oslo from London eight years ago in search of the ‘good life’, where I could get inspired by the Scandinavian culture and energized from the way of life here. I started at Snøhetta, where I met my business partner Erik Jacobsen. We soon established CTRL+N. We were both young and ambitious, to some extent naive, but it was a steep and quick learning experience to get to the point of being able to run and develop an architecture and design practice. During these months and years of hard work and little pay, we developed relationships with other design practices, both in Norway and abroad. We soon realized that sharing skills and resources with other practices allowed us to grow, both in projects, but also as architects. These working methods soon led us into a long term relationship with KONTUR, with whom we've now merged with. 

Whenever starting a new project I always ask myself if it will enable me to grow and develop my skills as a designer. Is it something that will inspire me to get out of bed in the morning, is it something that will keep me thinking until the early hours? If so, then it is a project worth engaging with. 

Our first move is to sit down with the client and try to get a real sense of what it is they want or need. It is vital to establish a good line of communication between the client and the designer from day one. Although it is our job as the architect to provide the best possible solutions to the brief, it is also important to make sure that our ideas are in line with the ambitions of the client. Next, it is time to make groups—to get out the pens, sketching paper and model making tools. Although 3D modeling tools and other computer software’s are essential to the process of design, I like to wait a while before logging onto my computer.

In late 2013 we were invited by the Scandinavian Design Group to join in on a project from Lundin Norway. Lundin is an oil company who wanted a groundbreaking installation for the upcoming ONS Expo in Stavanger 2014. Lundin was already an innovative company and wanted a team and design that reflected their own methodologies. Beyond this, the brief was open for discussion.

The final team for the project was quite vast considering the project was only a few hundred square meters, but what it lacked in size it made up for in complexity. We started our design process alongside Scandinavian Design Group and as the requirements grew for the different specialties, so did the team. We were extremely lucky to be part of such an open minded group of people as the project required compromise and adaptation due to its complexity. This is also a reflection on the good will and patience of the client to allow this process to flourish and grow.

It is certainly one of those projects that looks better in reality than it ever could as sketches or animations. 

We were fortunate enough to be a team that was willing to listen to each other’s opinions and to evaluate the best approach at each step. Lots of small steps over several months led to a well formed project based on collaboration. There is always a certain amount of compromise between the conceived ideas to the end result. What we see in our heads at the beginning doesn’t always take into account all the real world factors, like budget, site constraints etc, but I think we actually came very close to what we had imagined. It is certainly one of those projects that looks better in reality than it ever could as sketches or animations.