Known for its beautiful mountain landscape, expedition training, and Star Wars, mountain village Finse stands at the highest point of the Norwegian Railway track, on the outskirts of Hardangerjøkulen glacier. If you remember this scene from Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, you will find that it was filmed in Finse.

Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet1
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980_©Star Wars

But that is not all Finse has to offer. It is also home to a hotel named Finse 1222. First built in 1906 as a mountain lodge providing shelter for railroad builders working on the tracks connecting the city of Bergen with the Norwegian capital, Oslo, is proof of the industrialisation era in Norway. Later in 1909, it reopened as a hotel. It quickly gained popularity as the European aristocracy started developing an appreciation for travel. The visitor log indicated the stay of several famous personalities such as Prince Charles, Norwegian figure skater Sonia Hennie, and of course, the stormtroopers.

Exploring Finse 1222

After over a century of upholding the rich history and local traditions, it was time for the hotel to receive a “touch-up.” The well-known architectural firm Snøhetta was entrusted with bringing the hotel back to life. The hotel’s redesign mainly focused on bridging the past and present Finse while allowing its visitors to experience its magnificent surroundings to the fullest.

Snøhetta explored the site for all the historic material it had to offer. The team discovered several photographs showing a range of activities, designs, and interiors on site. The exterior structure, built in classical Swiss Chalet style, exudes a humble yet exclusive feel. Whereas the interiors, over the decade of refurbishments and the influences from the traveling aristocrats, were a mix of luxurious British design and classic Norwegian design.

Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet2
Old photographs found in the hotel’s attic_©Finse Hotel
Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet3
Old photographs found in the hotel’s attic_©Finse Hotel

Revisiting Finse 1222

The only route of arrival to the hotel is by train, which is limited to four arrivals per day in the winters. It only adds to the personal feel exuded by the hotel and its surroundings. Keeping this in mind, the approach to the site and the arrival spaces were crafted to create a unique and exotic experience for its visitors. Instantly, as one steps inside the hotel, they are engulfed with warm, welcoming tones of red and orange. A fireplace and ample seating space add to the relaxing aura of the lounge area.

Before moving on from the lounge you might want to take a seat on the terrace extension added by the team. The space invites the visitors to get some sun while enjoying the view of Lake Finsevann and the breath-taking glacier Hardangerjøkulen.

Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet4
Approach to the Hotel_©Ivar Kvaal
Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet5
Gallery wall in the lounge area_©Ivar Kvaal

The eclectic style developed by Finse over the years added to the hotel’s charm. Snøhetta’s vision continued the fusion of humble yet elegant spaces in their revamp. New elements were only added to spaces when absolutely needed. The new interior spaces included Nordic-style wooden furniture, bold patterned wallpapers, and elegant details.

Reminiscing Finse 1222

Since conserving the past was one of the core principles of the project, the existing materials and furniture on-site were key elements in the renovation process. While exploring the site for historic materials, “Bird” by William Morris, one of the greatest textile designers, was spotted on some old furniture. The colour palette ranged from warm reds and oranges to colder blues and greens. Transferring the colour palette to the spaces paved the way to creating a comforting yet stimulating experience as one moved from one space to another.

Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet6
Old photographs of the interior space The revamped space_©Finse Hotel
Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet7
Old photographs of the interior space The revamped space_ ©Ivar Kvaal

A highlight from all the furniture items that were repurposed is the original chair and a 2-seater bench found in the attic. The furniture represented the typical Norwegian craft style and wooden carvings. Now placed in the library along with other equally important historic treasures found in the hotel, creates a great space for relaxing with a book.

Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet8
Spaces conserved and reimagined by Snøhetta_ ©Hotel Finse
Hotel Finse 1222 by Snøhetta: Mixing Eclectic with Traditional Design - Sheet9
Spaces conserved and reimagined by Snøhetta_ ©Hotel Finse

Portal Experience

Snøhetta makes perfect use of the delightful scenery encompassing the hotel. The bold coloured interior spaces frame and highlight the vast white landscapes through portal-like panorama windows. These portals create an ethereal experience during the famous “blue hours”, the winter sunsets at Finse, where everything turns blue.

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Panaroma window frames the view of the glacier_ ©Ivar Kvaal

The “portal experience” continues into the private suites. The hotel saw additions of new suites on the then rooftop, adding spectacular views from everywhere in the suites. While adding new suites to the structure, the rooftop also saw a change. A tailor-made “fold” was designed to ensure the snow does not stack up on the roof as it previously did

Private Suite at Hotel Finse 1222_ ©Ivar Kvaal

Design Blanket

While Snøhetta mainly focused on the interior and architectural aspects of the design, that did not stop them from also revamping the hotel’s digital presence. Based on the historic findings on the site, the team designed a new logo, a custom font for Finse 1222, etc. It does not end there. They also designed several items that are exclusive to the hotel – such as the blankets. Inspired by the glacier Hardangerjøkulen, the navy blue and white blanket was designed to match the ambiance in the hotel and the landscape outside. The overall design of the hotel – physically and virtually, can be tied together.

References:

  1. Snohetta.com. 2022. Hotel Finse 1222. [online] Available at: <https://snohetta.com/projects/598-hotel-finse-1222>
Author

Lekhya, inquisitive by her nature, has a strong appetite for picking up new skills and lessons from life. She believes that literature has the power to bridge the gaps between people and diverse fields.

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