Tag Archives: norway

The Arch

The Arch in Mandal, Norway by 3XN, 2011.

Mandal is a town of 15,000 people southwest of Oslo at the very tip of Norway. It overlooks the North Sea, and in every other way relates to the surrounding water, be it the sea, the river, or inlets. Danish architects 3XN describe the town as charming, marked by "historic white wooden houses, ... narrow streets, a river running through the center, and beach and forest nearby." Their design for a cultural center in Mandal responds to history and landscape, replacing industry with culture in this remote place.

For Norwegians, Mandal is a popular resort town for its beaches. An aerial view of the town reveals a long, gentle arc of sand open to the south, reaching towards the river and the old industrial core where the cultural center is located. "The Arch," as the cultural center is called, perches itself on the riverfront; its white surfaces respond to the historical houses in town. As well, the low, tapering building does not overwhelm the context, where trees are the tallest neighbors and create a green backdrop for the white buildings.

The Arch is a house of the people, so we designed a building that in an elegant and soft motion gathers the town's cultural life, while the modern expression bears witness to a town in development. -Jan Ammundsen, Partner and Head of Design at 3XN

Inside and out, Ammundsen's design is about long, gentle curves, be it the shape of the facade's openings, the way the building ramps up from the land side, or the way the primary exterior walls arc in plan. There seems to be a relationship between the building's form and the beach, the river, and other natural features in the area. With the white walls, it's as if Ammundsen and company want to make the building a balance of the physical and the manmade.

In addition to designing The Arch, 3XN has master planned the context for the building. "Future projects" surround the cultural center on the northeast and southwest, bending to The Arch's curves yet more in tune with the historical buildings that came before in their small scale. Another planned element is a pedestrian bridge, now under construction, that spans the river and links the cultural center to the west side of Mandal. As expected, the bridge follows The Arch's curve and offers spots to take in natural and historical views of the town and the cultural center itself.

Holmenkollen Ski Jump

Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo, Norway by JDS Architects, 2011.

On the cover of JDS Architects' monograph Agenda is a collage that features the Eiffel Tower; well, more accurately a leaning Tower of Eiffel. This form is certainly meant to refer to Julien de Smedt's design for the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, the host of the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships; the leaning cantilever and the curves seem to follow the Parisian tower's lead. Inside the book the project is given more ink than any other project, or at least it appears that way interspersed throughout. Needless to say, the project is a very important one for the architects, and it has the potential to give Smedt a prominence like his old partner Bjarke Ingels.

The current jump is not the first incarnation for this hill in Holmenkollen, a small village twenty minutes from Oslo. As far back as 1892 the village has hosted competitions, but it was determined in 2005 by the International Ski Federation that the hill would not meet the standards for this year's FIS Championships. Like golf, distances have grown with technological advances as have crowds with the sport's popularity. So the subsequent demolition of the old jump paved the way for JDSA's competition-winning design.

The resulting simplicity of the solution improves the experience of the spectators and brings clear focus to the skiers. -JDSA

A few years before the decision to build a new jump, Europe saw the construction of Zaha Hadid's Bergisel Ski Jump in Austria. Part tower, part curving bridge, the design is notable for its striking form but also for the way it elevates the café over the ski jump, literally and figuratively. In Holmenkollen, these sorts of ancillary functions must also be accommodated, yet their approach is different: "The judges booths, the commentators, the trainers, the royal family, the VIPs, the wind screens, the circulations, the lobby, the entrance to the arena and the arena itself, the lounge for the skiers, the souvenir shop, the access to the existing museum, the viewing public square at the very top, everything, is contained into the shape of the jump."

The aluminum-clad jump rises 58 meters (190 feet) above the hill, with an impressive 69-meter (225-foot) cantilever, but a glance at the section and axon below illustrates that this section is only one-third of the project. There is the splayed legs of the tower and the bowl that houses the seating and the landing strip for the jumpers. Or to put it another way the project is impressive, but not necessarily because of the cantilever; it is a major integration of landscape and iconic form where the cantilever is just the tip of the iceberg.

Oslo School of Architecture

Oslo School of Architecture in Oslo, Norway by Jarmund/Vigsnæs AS, .

Located near the Akerselva River in the eastern part of Oslo, Norway, the Oslo School of Architecture conducted an open design competition in 1998 for the renovation and expansion of an existing, 1938 building won by local architect Jarmund/Vigsnæs AS. Given the existing building's conservation status on its exterior, the architects focused their attention on the interior, a sunken courtyard and a new block of classrooms competing the courtyard.

To signal the entry and bring daylight to the first floor, an access court was created by removing part of the first floor. Coupled with the courtyard beyond the opening ties the School to the river while creating a communal outdoor room for social interaction and teaching. A cafe, auditorium, exhibition space, a library, design studios and workshops occupy the ground floor with offices and other administrative uses on the floor above.

Inside the character of the building is a mixture of rough, industrial surfaces (exposed, chalk-blasted concrete structure) and contrasting materials (polished concrete, linoleum flooring, ash in the auditorium and glass partitions predominant). The new exterior walls are comprised of different color insulated glass systems, giving varying characteristics to each space through incoming light.

The appeal of JVA's design for the Oslo School of Architecture lies in how the well-scaled spaces interact with the materiality of the palette the architects use. Details like the suspended mesh ceiling below the fluorescent lighting in the library (in lieu of the standard acoustical tile ceiling with lay-in light fixtures) and the use of the same in the stairwells add to this appeal. More so the exterior spaces extend this thinking, creating equally well-proportioned outdoor spaces for circulation, learning and enjoyment.

[Google Earth link]

College in a Forest

College in a Forest

College in a Forest in Fredrikstad, Norway by Duncan Lewis, 1998.

Located in the wooded, rocky landscape of Fredrikstad, Norway, Duncan Lewis's project (with Pir II Arkitektkontor) for a college attempts to integrate into the existing landscape, paralleling the school's pedagogy: making students aware of environmental issues. Lewis uses an environmental approach both in the building's siting and its aesthetic.

Similar to Rem Koolhaas's design for a one-family house in Floirac, France, the college is broken down into three components: auxiliary spaces built into the rocky, sloping site; five wings emerging from these spaces, as well as the rock below; and three light, almost transparent, metallic beams, containing classrooms in an open plan. The first grounds the design into the earth, the second brings it out of the earth (the walls made from the same rock as the site), and the third places objects on the site, ultimately giving the project its expression.

The diagram at left shows the elevations of one of the beams, each differentiated by a different color. The beams are prefabricated off-site and basically placed on the site, which is homogeneous enough that no extra foundations are necessary. With tree removal necessary to place the classroom spaces on the site the architect has created a simulacra of the native vegetation: translucent trees of polyester resin molded into the facade. Lewis's imaginative solution to the site's destruction makes the inhabitant aware of the relationship between man and nature while commenting on how man views nature (as an artifact?).

The design raises many questions that will, no doubt, influence the students attending the college. The appeal of the project rests highly on the fascinating renderings that jar the viewer from any previous expectations. Now we can only await the completion of the school to see if the fusion of idea and technology achieves what the images promise.

Villa Busk

Villa Busk

Villa Busk in Bamble, Norway by Sverre Fehn, 1990.

Sverre Fehn's career has spanned five decades, but it was not until he received the 1997 Pritzker Prize that he gained international renown. This private residence, built in his native country like much of his work, is typical of his buildings in their relation to site, strong materiality, and blend of modernity and regionalism. Much like Finland's Alvar Aalto, Fehn's buildings have a timelessness that arises from these qualities.

Villa Busk straddles a ridge, adjacent to a valley that runs to the nearby Oslo Fjord to the south and west. The plan is arranged along a linear spine, oriented east to west, rising to the latter end of the house, following the natural terrain (a tower and storage shed break from this linearity). This gesture describes that main theme of the house and Fehn's work in general: the strength of nature and man's subordination to nature. In the movement up the stairs to the living room, family members are kept aware of the ground upon which the house is built, as well as any ideological implications. The north facade (top) contrasts heavily with the solid concrete walls of the south facade, both in scale and material treatment. The entry facade maintains an inviting appearance, while the opposite rises from the rocky earth, echoing the rough nature of the land toward the fjord.

When the house was completed and the dramatic confrontation between nature and architecture had ceased..., I had the feeling of having dreamt of a trip yet to be taken.   -Sverre Fehn

These two facades give an indication of Fehn's mastery of materials and detailing, typically limited to the palette of native materials: wood, grey stone, concrete, and copper. The villa also uses polished marble on smooth surface, such as the main stair and the kitchen counters, but also as chips in an inlaid strip. Inside the surfaces are slate for the main corridor, wood for other floors, concrete for walls, and tile in the bathroom. The rough quality of the concrete walls gives the house an illusion of rising from the earth, while the warm wood textures the house, giving the spaces their domestic scale and intimate nature.

Although using traditional materials and techniques from his native country, the spatial relationships and solid/void characteristics of the house are very modern. The rooms of the main volume of the house are scaled to their purpose but maintain a level of openness to the other spaces. Each room "borrows" visual space from adjacent rooms and the long corridor, separated by floor materials and a line of columns. This corridor also expresses Fehn's use of transparency, as floor-to-ceiling glass creates its facade, though the functional areas of the house have smaller windows relating to their uses (a gesture reminiscent of Mackintosh's Hill House).