It has long been a feature of Norwegian culture to live in private homes and villas in the suburbs; a yearning to be in touch with nature has always existed.
Norwegian poetic modernism produced a style of construction that blends in with nature, using basic geometric shapes, organic materials, evident and skilled craftsman-like finishing, organic colours, and only well-selected site interventions.
One such project is The Red House, designed by Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects (JVA), situated in the Lysaker River Valley of Norway, about 6 kilometres west of Oslo. The project portrays the allure of nature in two ways: via interaction and through distance.
The house is heavily influenced by Norway’s Nordic architectural elements, focusing on timber materials and how structures connect with the natural environment. When placing a building in the landscape, there are many lessons to be gained from vernacular architectural design. It was built on the site of a previous garden on the east side of a densely forested river valley.
The 1,830-square-foot house effectively incorporated the difficulties presented by the sloping quarter-acre land. After partially digging into the riverbed, the house’s thin, rectangular form seems even more orthogonal to the river. In addition to emphasising the slope’s natural decline, this minimises view blockage for the occupants atop the bank, preserving their enjoyment. Its volume is defined by minimal forms and sharp cuts that fit into a prism. However, its orientation and location on the slope modify the picture and make the entire built form dynamic.
The architects aim to engage with the environment to highlight and define the area’s natural beauty. The interior perspectives improve the link between architecture and its surroundings. Architecturally, the project highlights the surrounding area’s most breathtaking vistas with opposing inclinations. The upper level, which houses the master bedroom, kitchen, and main communal space, has a picturesque view to the south, across the stream into the virgin forests.
The lower floor, allocated to children and featuring three bedrooms and a separate living space, faces north. As a result, through the trees, a glimpse of the woods and valleys is possible. The area’s post-war wooden single-family homes give the neighbourhood a unique character. This local flavour influenced the spatial ideas and elements of the project.
As the building’s name suggests, its intensely saturated red façade represents the owner’s personality and boosts the project’s vibrancy. This environment gives a significant level of contrast when the structure is surrounded both by snow and natural plants.
The interiors have been kept neutral, serene, and light with beige and white tones. These colours capture and reflect the large windows’ abundance of natural light. It incorporates traditional Norwegian architecture techniques, such as timber log structures dating back 300 years.
As a result, the project conveys a sense of substantial materiality and offers the client a focused impression of the interior space. Wooden floors link the sections and contribute to the unusual form’s sensation of warmth and cosiness.
The Red House is currently making strides toward a more sustainable building industry since the design draws inspiration from Norwegian wood architecture, which was once a living historical legacy. There are social and aesthetic benefits to this style, in addition to its uniqueness and innovation. As an alternative to steel, wood has been employed.
This building material has many advantages over traditional materials, such as being renewable, locally grown, having a low carbon footprint, and taking less time to create. High-quality wood parts vary in elasticity, allowing buildings to endure the effects of climate change. Modern timber-based products share many of the advantages of lumber. They even can “seal in” the carbon that the tree they were formed from absorbed.
Besides being organic, timber also offers a tactile feel that binds us to nature. It has a pleasant scent, has excellent acoustics for the space, and has a particular impact on us—it soothes us. As a result, wood architecture can improve our quality of life. Building techniques have also advanced significantly in the last few decades.
Previously dependent on hand craftsmanship, vernacular architecture in Norway and others is now considerably more industrialised in terms of material and component manufacture. The visual appeal of timber is also appealing to architects. Residents of the structures feel a sense of belonging and place. Something that entices people and motivates them to protect and maintain the building for a significant duration.
Exploration into the use of timber, its components, and construction technology has led to the development of aesthetically pleasing buildings adaptable to the needs of locations and users. These buildings are proving to be ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable.
Although significant progress has been achieved in the sector, a real breakthrough is yet to come. Wood is a very diverse material that can make a surprising and novel contribution to our future.
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