Marie-Louise has always known that she wanted to be an architect – except for a short period of time when she was ten, when she toyed with the idea of becoming a greengrocer. Even then, her approach had been to sketch out the floor plan of the grocery store.
Today, Marie-Louise is a renowned architecture specialist and aesthetic advisor living in Copenhagen. With 25 years of experience in the industry, she specializes in Danish design and architecture, using her extensive knowledge on the subject to educate others. “The main thing that I learned in architecture school wasn’t so much to draw, but to really see,” MariFe-Louise tells us. “It forms the basis for what I do today – which is communicating what I see to others and starting a dialogue about architecture, how we can learn from it, and what it represents.” Among her many projects, Marie-Louise is the author of Secret Places: the architect’s guide to distinctive buildings in around Copenhagen, which has been published in both Danish and English, and chronicles Marie-Louise’s guide to the city’s 50 best-kept architectural secrets. “Every time I had guests visiting Copenhagen, I would show them my favourite places. Once we had experienced the basics, like Grundtvig’s Church, Arne Jacobsen’s SAS Hotel and the National Bank of Denmark, I still had a long list of places for people to visit. But I was missing literature to compliment the visit – a kind of introduction. That’s where I got the idea for Secret Places.”
Though she cannot pinpoint a specific moment that sparked her initial passion for architecture, Marie-Louise does remember that she has always had a particular fascination with spaces. “I can remember all kinds of rooms, going way back into early childhood. I have always loved to draw, and I started sketching floor plans for different rooms from a young age.” That interest brought Marie-Louise from her hometown of Hvide Sande in Western Jutland to Copenhagen at the tender age of 18, where she began studying architecture at the Royal Danish Academy. During her studies, Marie-Louise took an internship at an architecture firm specializing in government and listed buildings, and started working at Dansk Møbelkunst, a gallery specializing in rare, original works of Danish furniture from the 1920’s through the 70’s. After graduating with her master’s degree, she continued her collaboration with both companies. Today, Marie-Louise is self-employed, and her work as an independent consultant within architecture and design is both varied and diverse: no two days are the same.
“There’s no such a thing as a regular workday for me. If I’m writing, I start by looking for material – either in my own personal library or at a public library or database – and then in the afternoon I’m out looking at buildings in person and taking pictures for the project I’m working on. That’s the thing about architecture – you have to get out and experience it – it isn’t enough to just read about it in a book or on the internet.”
When asked about her favourite architectural period, Marie-Louise cites a 50-year time period that spans between the 1920’s and 60’s, when the architects in Denmark were inspired by classic idioms which transitioned into Functionalism, the human element becoming more significant in architecture: “Architecture expresses so much about its surroundings – the region, the time period – but also about people. Our history is written in bricks, and each building holds stories, an atmosphere and a sense of tactility.” In addition to her expertise in Danish architecture, Marie-Louise is heavily influenced by the Japanese design tradition, which she says is not so different from their Nordic counterparts. “It’s truly fascinating that the two countries are so far apart yet have developed similar building techniques – they are just based on different materials – in Denmark, we use brick, whereas in Japan, they use paper.”
“As I work from home, I have to be close to my books – they are my primary source material. But their presence also makes me feel at home.”
Marie-Louise’s home, which also functions as her professional workspace, bears numerous signs of her profession, most discernibly in her extensive collection of architecture and design books, which take up two walls in each of the adjoining living rooms: “As I work from home, I have to be close to my books – they are my primary source material. But their presence also makes me feel at home.” This neatly sums up Marie-Louise’s approach to decorating her home. As a self-proclaimed ‘practical aestheticist’, it’s a space where function meets intuition, where memory and future intersect. Classic Danish design pieces in natural materials like oak and leather share the space with small, thoughtful vignettes that are made up of souvenirs, inherited treasures and family photographs. The colour palette is neutral, understated and calming, allowing Marie-Louise’s book collection, which encompasses a kaleidoscope of colours and sizes, to act as the dominant decorative element.
A classic Copenhagen apartment centrally located in the Copenhagen borough of Østerbro, Marie-Louise shares her home with her two teenage daughters. “The most important thing about a home is that it’s a warm, inviting place where you want to spend your time,” Marie-Louise tells us. “It’s important that there’s a good atmosphere and that it’s a place where we can contemplate – where my children’s friends feel welcome, and where we can all drink a cup of tea together and feel at home.”