By: Victor Moreno Photo: Bohman Sjöstrand & Mikael Olsson
Creating the house of Absolut.
Every artist needs a studio, a place filled with the objects that light fires in their creativity. Atelier is the studio of Absolut. This doesn’t mean that executives gather here to make important decisions, in fact, quite the opposite is true. Atelier is a buoyant celebration of the Absolut universe, expressed through all five senses. Absolut understands that the best way for people to get to know you is by inviting them to your home – so they created a home. Showcasing the brand not as a vodka, but as a person, you can experience aspects of that person’s lifestyle and share equal beliefs. In the story below, we will uncover for you the creation of a remarkable place that embodies the soul of Absolut. Ladies and gentlemen, raconteurs and social scientists, welcome to the whimsical world of Atelier.
“Every artist needs a studio, a place filled with the objects that light fires in their creativity”
This majestic building from the early 1900’s, which formerly housed a national bank, belongs to the patrimony of Sweden. It is an Art Nouveau construction by the Swedish architect Gustaf Wickman, who was involved in other representative architectural projects, including Berns Salongen in central Stockholm and Kiruna Church, in the northernmost city of Sweden.
Absolut has respected all the original details of the building such as the stuccos on the wall, the wooden embellishment and the skylight in the living room. The location is at the gates of the charming and atmospheric Old Town of Stockholm, in the doorway to Drottninggatan (Queen’s Street).
On your way to seeing the full picture of what Absolut represents, the first thing you do after opening the door of Atelier is step into a dim bottle-shaped pathway, washing off the outside world. A subtle atmospheric sound effect washes over you as you walk on a soft floor into the environment, an immaculate transition from the franticness of the outside. This because Absolut is all about contrasts – just think of the bold typeface of the logo next to the swirling “Country of Sweden” underneath– you can feel that contrast the very moment you step into the building. You can feel that something very special awaits you.
Imagine integrating the grandeur of Tom Hanks' apartment in ‘Big,’ the coziness of Holly’s place in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and the eliteness of ‘St. Elmo’s fire,’ all in one. Got it? Now forget those references, because this 800m 2 super apartment is in fact, not home to any particular aesthetic or direction, but an embodiment of the cultural life of the elegance-savvy. How the ideal place would look in their minds – a living Pinterest board. Digging into contemporary influences and transmitting without frills. Through the attention to detail, you feel the core of a living brand along with what you see, touch, smell, hear or taste. Once you step inside this building, it flirts with all your senses.
It is not the act of making a location through branding and corporate guidelines, but rather a logical materialization of what the brand stands for.
Several angles led to what Atelier is today. Nevertheless a logical discussion was aroused: the ways in which Absolut would be visible, avoiding competitors or aspects not coherent with the brand. So the challenge was to find a location where Absolut would be complete. The brief started simply: Could you come up with an idea based on the concept of a library? A library where a person could step into the actual graphical life of Absolut. This was the beginning, creating a universe where you can actually go in and touch things representing a life, instead of reading it on a paper or watching a presentation.
This is addressed through mood images, fabrics, smells or even sound, all the influences that inspire the brand’s personality. It couldn’t be in any other way, the shelves are fully fitted with magazines and a book collection of photography, design, interior design, art and fashion that any creative mind would crave for. Also there are some of the books that Absolut has published, drawing on a myriad of collaborations from the likes of Helmut Lang or Spike Jonze.
“The collaborative mindset of Absolut is present all throughout the space”
The collaborative mindset of Absolut is present all throughout the space. For instance, artist Nils Nova www.nilsnova.tv created different layers of reality using the walls of the reception – the main room you enter straight after the transition pathway described above. She created a wallpaper artwork photographing the walls of Atelier, so the image in the picture is the same room where you actually stand thus creating a feeling of visual delay, echoing your perception. The beautiful skylight in this living-room is also part of the heritage of the building so it was covered from the outside in order to create an evening environment. This living-room reception wants to make you feel like staying, whether lingering or hanging around, in the same spirit a hotel lobby does, but instead of the front desk you will find the bar, the heart of Absolut. Just like in a laboratory, this is the site for soulful mixology, the experimentation process of creating new cocktail combinations, new flavors. Please allow me to refer to the barman as the alchemist who stirs ingredients, measuring the quantities like in perfume making. Just a hint in one or another direction makes a completely different cocktail. You just need to see their tools and the unlabeled neat white neat bottles filled with handmade juices to grasp the feeling.
“Atelier is a buoyant celebration of the Absolut universe, expressed through all five senses”
The cellar is the heritage room, a contemporary vision to bring the spirit of the distillers and production facilities. This is a conceptual room of Åhus – the southern town of Sweden where Absolut is produced – with the information about the distillation process. An art installation conveys the winter wheat fields through a beautiful ceiling covered in jute strips hanging on. The coziness is in the smelling of this fiber together with the wooden floor and walls. Don’t forget this was a bank originally, so the safe down there has become a creative vault within this creative house.
There are things in this world that are meant to be handled by an upper hand. During the transformational construction of the space, workers found a marble plaque with the legal name of the original company that owned Absolut. It seems they had their office there in the early 1920s. In addition, builders also found what seemed to be an unintentional time-capsule: an Absolut bottle from the beginning of the century, lodged between two walls.
As you must imagine, that bottle still stands proudly in the stash of Atelier. Not being afraid of the unknown leads to where it belongs. There is a piece of embroidery hanging in a wall that conveys the spirit of the place, the old adage reads as follows: “In the right light at the right time everything is extraordinary.”
Text: Victor Moreno
Photo: Bohman Sjöstrand & Mikael Olsson
Can’t decide what drink to make? Each week we’ll teach you how to mix a new drink along with some bartending secrets to help you improve your skills on the way. Sign up now!
Keep an eye on your inbox for updates from Absolut.