BIT UNION, now open in Entra’s new office building on Akersgata, is an expansion on BIT, the fast-casual restaurant concept that has served salads, baguettes and pastries to hungry Osloers since 1998. This first BIT UNION—as well as the one opening in OSL’s new international terminal later this year—executes on a concept that showcases the company’s strong commitment to craftsmanship and design, through a collaborative approach.
Developed with longtime partners MAVERICK CONCEPTS, BIT UNION demonstrates BIT’s ambition and commitment to invest in real craftsmanship and create unique solutions in a world of mass production and standardization. To do so, BIT and Maverick Concepts assembled a highly skilled team of local professionals they’ve called UNION MADE: industrial and interior designers from Oslo design studio MONTAAG, and furniture company INTERIØRVERKSTEDET.
The result? A detail-oriented design and layout both purposeful and organic that creates an interesting and conversation-sparking tension between the classic and modern.
“In many ways BIT has always been an ‘anti-chain’ and we wanted to reinforce this in their new concept,” says Morten Kristiansen, partner at Maverick Concepts. “BIT UNION looks to strike a real contrast to the homogenization of the urban landscape that happens when chains, with their standardized experiences, take over.”
The cafe’s diverse and thoughtfully selected materials and surfaces—marble, leather, brass, wood, ceramics and Corian—create an eclectic exuberance and dynamism, with finer details, touches of humor, revealing themselves over repeated visits.
“All these elements build on the unique and quality experience BIT’s customers already appreciate and will anticipate more and more,“ says Axel Hartvig-Larsen, Maverick Concepts partner.
JUST THE BEGINNING
Along with BIT UNION – OSL—slated to open by the end of 2016—all seven existing BIT stores will be redesigned as BIT UNION between 2016-2017.
“More and more lately, Norwegians are seeking out higher quality food and dining experiences; BIT UNION was designed to satisfy this desire,” says Kristiansen. “Store experience is so incredibly important for us. It is the core of the business. People should love our stores. They should be stimulating meeting places that reflect how people want to live their lives.”
As such, each store will be experienced differently, but with some commonalities. Material choices, for example, will be similar, though applied in different ways across locations. Store locations themselves are influential: “Though Akersgata is a new building,” says Larsen, “we wanted to bring out something traditional and historical; to make sure that we avoid the sterile and cold feeling of new buildings.”
“Everything—objects, lamps, furniture, food—is and will be part of the conversation; each a small statement in a standardized world,” adds Larsen. “Through the occasional ‘maker’s mark,’ we’ll reveal a bit of the history of a given piece of furniture, thus providing insight into the union.”
THE ‘UNION MADE’ TEAM
Axel Hartvig-Larsen and Morten Kristiansen of Maverick Concepts have been working with BIT since nearly its inception, with Axel playing an influential role in the development of the first restaurant on Universitetsgata in 1998, right through the development of the name. Long since tasked with the overall responsibility of developing the stores’ concepts and designs, the pair sought to expand their collaboration to include others to not only raise the level of craftsmanship and design in BIT stores, but deliver as a more visible player in the urban landscape, fulfilling a heartfelt obligation to contribute to a vibrant and attractive city.
To help execute on their concept, Maverick Concepts turned to design colleague and project manager Karoline Bommen, managing partner of the newly established Oslo studio of MONTAAG—the Berkeley, California-based design firm formed in 2013 by Norwegian national and former BMW designer Per Ivar Selvaag. Bommen and fellow designer Hannah Berg delivered on Maverick’s concept and material brief with solutions both functionally strong and visually appealing.
“Building off of Axel and Morten’s concept, we looked to incorporate familiar objects, patterns and materials in new ways,” says Bommen. “For example, we took the age-old fruit basket and repurposed it as eclectic shelving. Also, in looking to rebel against the overplayed minimalism of exposed ductwork, we designed a 3-D psychedelic drop ceiling fashioned out of oak. Both are elements you’ll see repeated in some way in future BIT UNION locations.”
To execute on the handmade requirements of new furnishings tailor-designed for BIT UNION, the UNION MADE team engaged Oslo-area furniture maker Florian Bohner of INTERIØRVERKSTEDET. Bohner has previously helped in the construction BIT cafes, and has always executed the designs with beautiful handcraft and precision.
WIN-WIN NEIGHBORLY RELATIONSHIPS
“For us,” says Jonas Grønvold, CEO of BIT A/S, “BIT, and now BIT UNION, is about creating something with lasting value, for our customers, yes, but also for the city. We want BIT UNION to elevate the experience and value of their respective buildings and streets. Our experience is that the BIT brand adds value to properties and becomes a vital addition of the fabric of its respective neighborhoods.”
BIT UNION is located at Akersgata 36, 0158 Oslo.
MAVERICK is an independent agency within the Varde Group. We connect people and business through imaginative concepts that make strategies come alive.
MONTAAG is a multidisciplinary design studio with offices in Berkeley (CA), Stavanger and Oslo, Norway. Our passionate and eclectic mix of designers and researchers are driven to create insightful, functional and, perhaps, unorthodox design solutions — solutions that add value and distinction, and ultimately, sharpen our clients’ competitive edge.
Photos: Paul Paiewonsky