Prior to Vardehaugen, Håkon Matre Aasarød founded Fantastic Norway Architects together with Erlend Blakstad Haffner.
For 10 years (2003-2013) the studio was engaged in building design, mobilization and participation processes, development strategies, writing, and television production.
The primary ambition of the studio was to create an open, inclusive, and socially aware architectural practice and by that contribute to re-establishing the role of the architect as an active participant in – and a builder of society.
Fantastic Norway’s credo was: “Every town is different; every place is in some way fantastic. We aim to embrace this fact and through dialogue transform it into architecture”.
The heart and soul of the studio was a bright red caravan. Combined with media coverage and a variety of essays in the local newspaper, the caravan functioned as a meeting point and a mobile platform for architectural discussions, debates, and workshops.
Fantastic Norway gathered ideas, suggestions, and stories from the communities they worked in and utilized this collected knowledge in the design process. This inclusive way of designing anchored their projects locally and created a personal relationship between the proposed architecture and the people affected by it.
As a supplement to their ambulant practice, Fantastic Norway stimulated broad public awareness of architecture with more than 60 articles and essays in the local newspaper in addition to several spatial installations and stunts. In 2011 the partners Aasarød/Haffner hosted a television series of 6 episodes á 29 min for NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) aiming to arouse a broad public interest and curiosity for the field of architecture and planning.
After 10 exciting years of fantastic adventures, – people and – projects, the caravan was finally parked in 2013 after crossing Europe to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale for the third time.