Dead Ringers

Dead Ringers elevation studies. © Norell/Rodhe


Project by Norell/Rodhe
dead ringer
noun, slang
1. A person or thing that closely resembles another; ringer
Dead Ringers investigates an obvious and particular aspect of character in architecture: anthropomorphism. The project focuses on Stockholm’s urban booths—small, figurative buildings that are deeply ingrained in public consciousness. These kinds of buildings are a current concern simply because they are becoming extinct. Some, like phone booths, are rapidly being removed because of technological shifts. Others are threatened because they are at odds with prevailing ideals for public spaces, like transparency and openness. Dead Ringers critically turns this tendency into new opportunities. It proposes to selectively replace removed booths with mysterious near-copies that provide similar types of enclosed public spaces, without the narrow functional focus of phone and photo booths. These strangely familiar figures are a play on the proportions and iconic nature of Stockholm’s existing urban booths. Their dark but vaguely humorous silhouettes acknowledge the ambiguous character of most urban booths: as bright beacons of technology, but also as houses for a variety of shady activities of private nature.

Most if not all of Stockholm’s urban booths are immediately recognizable as small figures in the urban fabric. At the turn of the last century, some models featured shingle-clad pitched roofs and slender legs, while more recent ones are monolithic, rectilinear volumes made from formed metal panels. What ties them all together, despite stylistic differences, is the fact that they all have been shaped after the human body that they are supposed to house. Their anthropomorphic features include vertical proportions, symmetry, and a clear division into base, enclosure, and roof. Each Dead Ringer tweaks these ideal proportions and perfects symmetries of historical booths, recasting them as imperfect and multivalent individuals.


Visual taxonomy of Stockholm’s existing urban booths (white) and proposed Dead Ringers (black). © Norell/Rodhe


Dead Ringers gain their rickety appearances by selectively sampling the figural silhouettes of Stockholm’s urban booths. Each Dead Ringers combines different elevations from several booths, so that new, slightly odd masses are formed. This makes them appear different depending on how they are approached, something that invites circling around them. Some viewing angles will reveal a silhouette that is near identical with an existing booth. Moving along, the same silhouette turns into a lopsided, sculptural mix of two or several booths.

The careful combination of morphological features into a new whole calls attention to the anatomy of the booths. Disproportionally scaled building parts such as eaves, moldings, shafts, and plinths subtly shift into dressed up body parts—heads and hats, torsos and coats, legs and trousers. This turns each Dead Ringers into a character with a distinct sense of personality. Architecture may typically shape public life by acting as a backdrop to it. Dead Ringers, in contrast, populate and influence the streetscape of Stockholm by virtue of their active agency.





Dead Ringers in Stockholm’s urban fabric. © Norell/Rodhe


Dead Ringer commissioned by ArkDes for the exhibition Public Luxury. © Photograph by Mikael Olsson. Courtesy of Norell/Rodhe



Project Design: Norell/Rodhe
Photograph: Mikael Olsson
Drawings and collages: Norell/Rodhe


Norell/Rodhe is a Stockholm-based architecture studio founded by Daniel Norell and Einar Rodhe. The work of Norell/Rodhe draws from odd couplings of abstract architectural traits, such as proportion and frontality, with a gritty world of untamed materials and found objects. It ranges from competition winning schemes for cultural buildings and landscapes, to residences, interiors, and installations. The studio frequently participates in publications and exhibitions, and their work has recently been included in group shows at the 2019 Oslo Architecture Triennale, Yale University, the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, and at ArkDes. | @norellrodhe

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