Tormod Amundsen and Biotope

So, what might you get if a birder from a suburb in Norway who grew up loving dinosaurs went to architect school then figured he would move to a run-down fishing community about as far north in Norway as you can get without living in an ice-cave where he would introduce eco-tourism and design bird hides fit for the 21st century?

You’d get Biotopethe worlds first and only architectural office with special expertise on birds and birdwatching. We engage in pro nature projects. We design birdhides, shelters, nature trails, outdoor amphitheaters and much more. We make destination development studies, exhibitions and arrange workshops. We develop new concepts for experiencing nature and wildlife.”

I first met Tormod, the founder of Biotope, at the British Birdfair. I’d just started podcasting (so this was just a few years after he’d moved to Vardo on the Varanger Peninsula to start the company), and there was some discussion about ‘recording something about something or other’ (as there often is), but it went no further.

No further until, that is, Tormod emailed a few days ago, adding an update to an email thread dating back to 2016! (It can take a while to organise these podcasts, but rarely this long…). He was, he wrote, on a quick tour of the UK after opening Biotope’s first UK offices in York, could we meet up?

I’m sure we could co-ordinate I said and a quick check of the diaries (or in my case the post-it note stuck to my laptop) showed that we could both be at Slimbridge (HQ of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) on the same day. Tormod was giving a talk there, I live within an hour – the stars had aligned at last…

Which is why this morning I was at Slimbridge interviewing Tormod for a podcast. And what an entertaining, self-effacing, funny, and inspiring guy he is. One of those conservationists that just makes huge sense. He also has a natural sense of storytelling (in English, I should add – imagine what we’d be missing out on if everyone else had such a lazy approach to learning languages as we do here in the UK…).

Tormod went straight from talking with me for more than an hour to giving the talk I mentioned earlier. It was kind of like the interview, only with slides. And what slides they were. Photographs from another world, with close-ups of seabirds (including the drop-dead male Steller’s Eider above) and a singing Bluethroat that was clearly flying overhead almost within touching distance. And of course the designs for shelters/hides his firm is becoming so renowned for…

I took a few ‘live’ photos on my phone, which aren’t great – but if you don’t want to go to Varanger after seeing them you’re a) not a birder, b) not curious, or c) possibly no longer alive…

Anyhow, Tormod was on his way back to Norway almost before the projector bulb had cooled down, and I’ll be starting editing our chat asap. If it’s even half as good as it sounded to me at the time, you’ll love it .