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Shining a light on Ghana Freedom at the 58th…

The debut Ghana Pavilion, located in the Artiglierie of the historic Arsenale, Venice showcases a multi-generational lineup of six eminent Ghanian artists: El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, Felicia Abban, John Akomfrah, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Selasi Awusi Sosu. Titled ’Ghana Freedom,’ after the 1957 independence song by ET Mensah, the theme explores the legacies and trajectories of the nation’s independence from british colonial rule.

The pavilion is designed by UK-Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye, curated by renowned Ghanian Cultural Historian Nana Oforiatta Ayim, and the late Okwui Enwezor served as its strategic advisor.

The pavilion, with its elliptical shape, is inspired by the interconnected earthen architectural shapes throughout West Africa and clad with laterite soil sourced from Ghana. As villages have their own elliptical spaced volumes, so do each of the artists.

Steensen Varming provided the lighting design working with Adjaye’s vision. The lighting for the pavilion establishes an ambience that ensures the artworks are centre stage within their culturally expressive pavilion. Lighting was therefore designed to match the intent and approach for the individual pieces, working in collaboration with the artists to ensure they were accurately represented.

Ibrahim Mahama and El Anatsuis are exhibited in the outer spaces to welcome visitors into the pavilion. Both artists have designed sculptural works that follow the line of the main curved walls. Ibrahims work is made up of many small items integrated within a larger structure, whilst El’s work is a tapestry ofmetal printing plates, bottle tops and copper wires fashioned together to shimmer like drapped fabric.

In both spaces, the pieces are to be read as one complete work that extends across the space. Ibrahim’s has been lit evenly to connect the different structural elements and objects together, whilst El’s lighting subtley accentuates the work to emhasise movement and play of shadows created by the piece itself.

In some spaces such as those occupied by the AV works of John Akomfrah and Selasie A Sous, Steensen Varming adopt their ’embrace the darkness’ approach, allowing the projections to command the space, with the exception of Selasie’s bottle sculpture accentuated gently to balance visually with the adjoining projections.

Lynette Y Boakyeand Felicia Abban are placed in the two centre spaces, Lynette’s being large paintings with deep tones and layered textures, and Felicia’s work delicate black and white portraits. The two spaces are lit in opposing manners to complement the works, where Lynette’s is wall-washed allowing the darker tones and textures to be read together with the surrounding space, Felicia’s lighting is focused and cropped to accentuate the detail of the photographs whilst allowing the surrounding to drop back into darkness.

Short deadlines, a broad international team and working with a lighting hire company posed the challenges in this unique and ambitious project. Working collaboratively during the commissioning period ensured a successful outcome and definitely worth traveling to Venice for this year.

Steensen Varming are currently working with Adjaye Associates on various projects including the Ghana Cathedral in Accra.

Shining a light on Ghana Freedom at the 58th… Read More »

Happy Holidays

From Copenhagen, London, Sydney, Hong Kong and New York, we wish all of our friends, clients and collaborators a happy holiday season!

Please note that our Studios will be closed on the following days during the holiday season:

  • Our Copenhagen Studio will be closed midday on Friday 21 December 2018 and reopen on Wednesday 2 January 2019
  • Our London Studio will be closed midday on Friday 21 December 2018 and reopen on Wednesday 2 January 2019
  • Our Sydney Studio will be closed midday on Friday 21 December 2018 and reopen on Monday 7 January 2019
  • Our Canberra Studio will be closed midday on Friday 21 December 2018 and reopen on Monday 7 January 2019
  • Our Hong Kong Studio will be closed midday on Monday 24 December 2018 through Thursday 27 December 2018 and closed on Tuesday 1 January 2019

Happy Holidays Read More »

CSIRO Black Mountain Synergy building takes the awards!

At the Australian Institute of Architects ACT Chapter Awards, CSIRO Black Mountain’s Synergy building received The Romaldo Guirgola Award for Public Architecture, The Derek Wrigley Award for Sustainable Architecture as well as an award for Interior Architecture.

According to the ACT jury for Public Architecture, “Synergy is architecturally finessed. Its clear palette, vibrant light, high level of interior amenity and excellent ESD credentials (that are embedded in and exploited for architectural beauty) yields a workplace that seeks to restore the spirits and wellbeing of a revered organisation.”

The Sustainability jury commented that “Every opening to the façade is thoughtfully considered’ whether to permit the workspace to be fully naturally ventilated; to direct views to Canberra icons; or encourage incidental encounter and collaboration. The sheer amount of natural light that is provided to the laboratory spaces, despite their strict environmental requirements, is incredibly refreshing and well executed.”

Steensen Varming delivered Mechanical Engineering, Specialist Gases and ESD design as part of the BVN design team for the new PC2 laboratory facilities for CSIRO.

Read more about the project here.

CSIRO Black Mountain Synergy building takes the awards! Read More »

Part of New Zealand’s Coolest Redevelopment

We are very excited to announce that we are part of New Zealand’s coolest redevelopment. Media release by Antarctica New Zealand:

Scott Base is about to go under the microscope as a group of specialist designers takes up the call for the redevelopment of New Zealand’s home in Antarctica.

The facility is reaching the end of its functional life and needs to be redeveloped to manage risk, maintain standards and support the requirements of New Zealand’s world-class scientists. Antarctica New Zealand has contracted experts in four disciplines that can deliver on cold climate design.

The four successful applicants within each discipline are:

  • Architecture: Jasmax-Hugh Broughton Architects
  • Quantity Surveying: Turner and Townsend
  • Structural/Civil Engineering: WSP Opus
  • Building Services: Steensen Varming

This team will spend the next 12 months creating four concept designs based on user requirements, site investigations to understand environmental constraints and any learning from the experience of other National Antarctic Programmes. Antarctica New Zealand will then recommend a preferred option for a modern, low-impact, efficient facility that satisfies New Zealand’s scientific needs and strategic interests. This Detailed Business Case with concept designs will be presented to government in December 2018.

Scott Base Redevelopment Project Manager, Simon Shelton, says the chosen companies fit well with Antarctica New Zealand’s values and passion for the harsh continent.

“It’s important to us that they complement Antarctica New Zealand on this journey. They need to be able to work as part of our organisation and understand our environmental, cultural and logistical requirements,” he says. “We chose these organisations for their operational skill, innovation, values and willingness to collaborate”.

Euan MacKellar of Jasmax, one half of the Jasmax-Hugh Broughton Architects team, is looking forward to the challenge of designing New Zealand’s future physical presence in Antarctica.

“It is an incredible honour to be working with Antarctica New Zealand on the plans to redevelop Scott Base, where we will need to deliver high performance buildings in one of the most extreme natural environments on the planet,” he says. “It is a huge privilege to be part of the committed team creating designs which will help our scientists working in Antarctica to better understand our environment as we strive to protect our planet for generations to come”.

Antarctica New Zealand is the government agency charged with carrying out New Zealand’s activities in Antarctica, supporting world-leading science and environmental protection. New Zealand has occupied Scott Base every day since it was established by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1957 and is recognised as a leader in the international Antarctic Treaty System. Mr Shelton says it’s therefore important that Scott Base is a safe, fit-for-purpose facility well into the future.

“We intend to role-model environmental stewardship while creating a design that caters for New Zealand’s scientific and strategic needs in Antarctica. We are looking for efficiencies in how we, and our facilities, operate through all aspects of the design.”

This Detailed Business Case will cost 6.14 million dollars and has been funded by the Government.

A team of four designers visited Antarctica in December and then again in February to begin the design process.


  1. Jamie Lester (WSP Opus), Stephen Middleton (Jasmax), Martin Craig (Steensen Varming), Simon Shelton (Antarctica New Zealand), Hugh Broughton (Hugh Broughton Architects).
  2. Scott Base with Mount Erebus in background. Photo by Dr Fiona Shanhun

Part of New Zealand’s Coolest Redevelopment Read More »

Sean Mulcahy dies

It is with great sadness we announce that Sean Mulcahy, one of the early visionaries of Steensen Varming, along with Jørgen Varming, passed away Saturday 17 February 2018 in Dublin.

Sean (born 1926) joined Jørgen in 1948 on the establishment of a Dublin office (today Varming Consulting Engineers), working on many notable buildings such as the Irish National Bus Terminal and Headquarters for the National Irish Transport Authorities, the Chester Beatty Library, Coventry Cathedral, St. Catherine’s College, Sydney Opera House and thee British Library. He was not only a great engineer but had an appreciation of architecture, art and culture that pervades in Steensen Varming to this day. He was a truly elegant gentleman and a proud supporter for the work and direction we are all currently taking the company. We express a sincere gratitude for his influence on our work and lives and will make all efforts to keep his legacy alive.

The Irish Times obituary

Sean Mulcahy dies Read More »

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

With great anticipation for the year of the dog, we look back at an exciting year passed with new appointments, including the external lighting design for The University of Hong Kong’s Main Building with AD+RG, Wilkinson Eyre and Purcell and lighting concepts for Sai Kung Hotel with Aedas and Alex Choi Design & Partners. Our sustainability specialists have supported Quad in developing strategies for a residential development project in Shantou, China and a masterplan development in Pingshan, China.

In the past year we strengthened our team with the appointment of Associate Jonny Perks (previously based in Sydney) and Lighting Designer Zafer Dandashi, addressing the market’s increasing demand for higher building performance and specialist lighting design that provides cohesive environments within a fast-developing city.

We were recently appointed to work with Atkins (SNC-Lavalin) in providing sustainability masterplanning design services for the Bayshore precinct in Singapore. The project will create a number of diverse micro-communities tied together by pedestrian-friendly connections and we are excited to contribute to the vision of making the streets a destination.

Another successful masterplan competition with Atkins will be kicking off this year in Malaysia, while we keep our fingers crossed for the outcome of the 2nd stage of the Taoyuan Museum of Arts competition where we are part of one of the four shortlisted teams with JJ Pan and MVRDV Architects.

We wish all of our friends, clients and collaborators a happy, prosperous Lunar New Year!

Images: Kowloon Bay lighting design (Swire Properties), artwork by Patrick Clinen

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Read More »

With excitement at height

When timeframes are tight, We welcome this season, With a holiday greeeting.

The Steensen Varming teams in Copenhagen, London, Sydney, Hong Kong and New York wish our friends, clients and collaborators a happy holiday season!

Our Sydney and Canberra studios will be closed for the holiday period from midday on Friday 22 December 2017 and reopen on Monday 8 January 2018.

Our London studio will be closed midday on Friday 22 December 2017 and reopen on Tuesday 2 January 2018.

Our Hong Kong studio will be closed midday on Friday 22 December 2017 to Tuesday 26 December 2017 and on Monday 1 January 2018.

Steensen Varmings kontorer i København, London, Sydney, Hong Kong og New York ønsker venner, kunder og samarbejdspartnere en glædelig jul og et godt nytår!

Vi holder ferielukket fra kl. 12.00 fredag d. 22. december2017 og åbner igen mandag d.8. januar 2018.

With excitement at height Read More »

Among 16 most energy efficient offices in Australia

It is not common to sort organic waste in Sydney CBD offices. Yet, we continuously look for ways to make our business more sustainable in everything we do and to inspire this positive transformation in others, so we reviewed the waste management practices for our building with the building management and downstairs café. This collaborative effort has earned us the NSW Partnership of the Year award.

At this year’s CitySwitch Awards held at the Calyx in the Royal Botanic Gardens on Tuesday 28 November 2017 Steensen Varming was named among the top 16 most energy efficient offices in the country, assessed on the basis of our 6 stars NABERS rating.

The sustainable initiatives of our Sydney studio are incorporated throughout the office design and holistically in our daily operation.

Nearly 50 per cent of our fit-out has been reused to minimise wastage. We have used a durable, cork-based flooring which gives special consideration given to joinery and paint materials. Our specialist light fittings use low energy LED lamps and the lighting system reflects patterns of use with sensors installed in the bathrooms. Our air-conditioning system is zoned and for further energy efficiency gains, the communications room is designed to borrow air from the access floor which is pre-cooled by the concrete slab below.

Among 16 most energy efficient offices in Australia Read More »

Making the streets a destination in Singapore

Located over 60ha in an important and highly visible location in Singapore, the Bayshore precinct will house around 12,000 families. The new development is set on the waterfront amongst tropical greenery with new strong public transport connections to the rest of Singapore.

With a courtyard-and-tower housing typology, Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) aspires to bring people back to the streets with a network of courtyards being used like the “common living room”. Where roads were once dedicated to vehicles travelling from one place to another, this vision sees the streets as vibrant public spaces and places to visit in their own right.

Our Hong Kong studio has been appointed to work with Atkins (SNC-Lavalin) in providing sustainability masterplanning design services for the project, creating a number of diverse micro-communities tied together by pedestrian-friendly connections.

See more details on the project here

Making the streets a destination in Singapore Read More »

Join us on ‘the dark side’ at IMCC Copenhagen

This year’s International Museum Construction Congress is taking place in Copenhagen on 5-7 November and will have museum professionals along with architects, engineers and project managers and other service professionals discuss the key topics relating to museum construction, renovation and expansion.

As part of the agenda our CEO, Dan Mackenzie will be presenting under the title The Black Art (and Science):

Almost all buildings need to incorporate technology, engineering services, passive control and adaptability for future needs, however, due to a number of reasons they can be seen as a “black art”, a “necessary evil” that takes budget and space away from “more important” things.

So, what are the issues that need to be understood and expected so that the process and final outcome is optimised? How are older buildings sustainable, how do services enable architectural icons to perform? The session breaks down some of the most important aspects into elements such as light, air, humidity, sustainability and control, conveying their needs and impacts from the initial brief through to operation. A number of case studies (new buildings, heritage buildings and combinations of the two) will be presented that have addressed the very demanding and often conflicting requirements for conservation, display and user comfort.

Register and read more about the congress here

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