Norway rests on the dramatic and beautiful Scandinavian terrain. The sprawling fjords and the glacial mountains give a landscape that runs all over the cold, arctic region. The country has seen many stages of architecture, from the Stave buildings of Viking Age, stone manors and churches during the Romanesque and Gothic ages, forts of Renaissance, Danish influence in mass housing, and Rococo interiors, to this date when we see themes like functionalism and reconstruction. Most of the elements respond to the climatic conditions, but the forms of Norway have evolved a lot from just the vernacular, especially after the Black Death. The Norwegians put a lot of thought into their buildings, which is quite brilliantly manifested in its execution. 

Sogn & Fjordane Art Museum – This museum is designed by C.F. Moller Architects. The form of the building blends in its surroundings as an ice-block among the mountains. The translucent looking façade is clad in white glass. The haphazard gleaming lines running here and there resemble the cracks in ice plates, and the white-on-white highlight is commendable. Openings are aligned to these lines, supporting the asymmetrical theme of the building and its plan. A triangular stairs’ network takes one through the 4 floors having exhibition corners. The terrace serves as an exhibition hall and a site for scenic views of the city and mountains around. 

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Trollstigen Plateau Visitor Center – This cultural center is designed by Reiulf Ramstad architects. The structure is made of cor-ten steel and cast-in-place concrete. It is remote and thus accessed through stairs down to the center which has a mountain lodge, restaurant, bridges, gallery to flood barriers, and an outdoor landscape hanging from the edge. Structure and details are designed carefully to withstand the stresses of wind and snow, and such that it requires minimum maintenance. The delicate-looking structure perched in the mist isn’t just a perfect point to get breath-taking views of the mighty fjords, but worth appreciation itself. 

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Knut Hamsun Center – The building designed by Steven Holl Architects is dedicated to Norwegian writer- Knut Hamsun. The concept revolves around a theory of Hamsun – the compression of spirit in space and light, the building being a body. The spine is the elevator which is surrounded by exhibition areas, a library, a café, an auditorium, and a roof garden on different levels. Black charred wood on the façade reminds us of Stave architecture. Natural topography supports the lower lobby and the way up in being illuminated.

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Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion – This observational pavilion was designed by Snohetta architects. The organic interiors and the south-facing wall create a warm space, also supported by a suspended furnace. The curves were constructed by Norwegian ship-builders, using a pine beam and assembled by wooden pegs. The structure is durable enough to survive the harsh climate while at the same time being a quiet center among the mountains to observe herds of reindeers among the mystical landscapes. 

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Cathedral of Northern Lights – The building is a landmark, working as both, a church and an observational center for the amazing phenomenon of northern lights, which is also the concept. Schmidt Hammer architects and LINK architects collaborated to work upon this ethereal building. The exterior clad in titanium is given contrast by the peaceful concrete walls and wooden floor. The irregular slender windows and skylight light up the hall for 350. It also has administration offices, classrooms, exhibition halls, and a parochial area.

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Tromso Library and City archives – Norway has a great reading culture and it is evident by the amount of thought they put in making libraries. The library was originally a cinema theatre, which was redesigned by architect Kjell Beite. The library houses four floors worth of book collection along with city archives. All the floors have different temperatures to suit each reader’s comfort. The simple building with parabolic titanium roof and glass façades facing the fjords and the Scandinavian sun gives the visitors a getaway from their regular lives.

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Summer House – This house was designed by Jensen & Skodvin architects. The specialty of this house is that it is built to blend in its forest-like surroundings. It rests on existing timber logs and is made in such a way that the site could be reversed back to what it was. The house is clad with shingles of tree core which are cut by axes for long life. Every window opens up to another part of an invigorating landscape, and, a mighty rock, takes up almost a quarter of the living room, bringing the nature inside the house. 

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Holmenkollen Ski Jump – This museum near the hilly outskirts of Oslo was designed by Julien de Smedt. Instead of having a separate form for judges’ booths, commentators, trainers, spectators, lobby, windscreens, viewing area, etc, all these are accommodated into the building which works as a ski jump and a museum. It is 58 meters high and has a quintessential 69-meter cantilever. It’s a new form of public space combining activities with peaceful views to the fjords beyond. 

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Barcode Project – This project was assigned to Norwegian firms Dark and a-lab in collaboration with Dutch firm MVRDV. These are 12 rectangular buildings of different heights and widths arranged in a row with some gap to resemble barcodes. These are office buildings making up the Bjorvika waterfront and have some apartments, a daycare center, restaurants, and galleries. The openness of one façade to the fjord allows light and airiness, and the other façade connects to the transportation hub, giving easy access to almost 10000 people who work here daily. 

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The Twist Museum – We know that most of Norway remains remote and unspoiled. This museum designed by Bjarke Ingels Group bridges the Randselva River. It wraps up by 90 degrees at the center of the museum thus being a hybrid of a bridge and art. The simple masterpiece is a steel structure clad in aluminum planks with similar interiors with white fir slats. The structure is an embodiment of genius.    

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The contemporary public places as well as shelters in this country are best aligned to the enticing views and responding precisely to the harsh climatic conditions. 

Priya Sangani
Author

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