A country, known for its mountainous landscapes, polar bears, and its beauty lying below the northern lights, Norway is one of the happiest countries in the world. With its beauty in every form that includes coral reefs, beaches, and fjords Norwegian Architecture has come a long way and plays a huge part in preserving all beauties. Although the Architecture of Norway is a compilation of different styles from around the world, the country managed to bring its essence to every building and surroundings.

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Norwegian Houses_©Lund og Slaatto arkitekter

Viking and Medieval Eras

Traditional buildings in Norway tell us a lot about the activities and climate of the country. For nearly 800 years, Norwegians constructed wooden structures that were well crafted. Such structures provided the suitable and necessary shelter for their activities. 

At an early age, the traditional Architecture of Norway consisted of two types of buildings: Farms and Stave Churches. And as in construction methods and materials, it consisted of logs and staves. In living spaces called stue, a cave of wood was created with horizontal logs and in a stave church, vertical staves were used to represent the connection with God and heaven. 

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Old Norwegian Farm_©Shefalitayal

The farms were particularly built for their activities. To show the pride and the power, there was a storage space in a two-story building called the loft. This structure was well built with exquisite wood carving and other high techniques. Near the loft was the stue, that reflected the loft showing its advanced construction. 

Due to the social changes and the economic uplift until the 17th century, the import of other building materials was hard. Even though wood was in plenty, skilled laborers to make it into a useful amenity were less. This situation forced them to learn more about wood and made them superior in their craftsmanship of wood. And that’s why across history, we can see Viking ships, the stave churches, and the farms with their mind-blowing craftsmanship till the 19th century.

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Old Norwegian Farm with Loft_©Working by Hand-Wordpress

One of the amazing factors of the Architecture of Norway is the thoughtful handling of wood according to its climate typology that made them secure during the harsh winters, snow, and glaciers. To increase the performance of the wood, vertical planks were raised and were standing upon foundation beams unlike with no supporting frames in the early use of wood. 

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Stave Churches

Stave churches were a sacred aspect of the medieval life of Norway. With its finest wooden construction, the structure stood up against water rot, rain, wind, and extreme climatic variations. Only 28 of them remain today, while others were destroyed during the religious movements. To prevent the rotting, massive sills were built under the staves. 

Culturally stave churches represent the transition of religion from Pagan and animism worship to Christianity. Then the churches received a lot of Romanesque features like basilica shapes, circular arcs, and decor like Christian motifs. Architecturally, Stave churches had a dark and mysterious interior as Norway lights are dimmed.

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Norwegian Stave Churches_©Life in Norway
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Romanesque Churches in Norway_©Wikiart

Later Years

In the later years, Norwegian Architecture was inspired by Baroque Architecture, with highly decorative and theatrical style, Rococo Architecture when fashion was in style by sawmill technology, and Neo-classicism in the 19th century when a few architects and engineers were in town equipping the latest trends for the wealthy. 

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By the 20th century, the fully independent Norway had German influence in national architecture and town planning. When the local people educated architecture in Sweden, the country relied on modern trends and techniques adapted in their way. Also changed demographics and the growth in society affected architecture politically to be cost-effective, clean, and comfortable for the urban population known as boligsaken. In Norway, architecture was a tool for their evolution in economics, unlike other countries. 

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Baroque Architecture in Norway_©Pinterest

Present Norwegian Architecture

Today, the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo, known in Norwegian as Norsk Folkemuseum, is the country’s largest museum of cultural history. It houses a collection of about 150 structures from all around Norway that depict life in Norway from 1500 to the current day. These structures symbolize many geographies, historical times, as well as the distinctions between town and country, as well as social classes. 

The open-air museum’s stave church, Gol Stave Church, dates from 1200 and is one of the museum’s five medieval structures. Beauty used to be an expression of the people; nowadays, it is a reflection of each individual’s personality. However, one immediately senses that beauty is ageless, not old or new.

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Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo_©Norsk Folkemuseum

Modern architecture has undoubtedly been affected by the Norwegian ideal of an egalitarian society, which encourages inclusive and sustainable buildings and settings, both in terms of climate and social factors.

Norwegian architects have gained great worldwide attention and won prestigious international accolades in recent decades, including the Pritzker Prize in 1997 for Sverre Fehn and the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2009 for Snhetta’s opera house in Oslo. 

Smaller firms like Element Arkitekter, Tyin tegnestue, Rintala Eggertsson, Haugen/Zohar, Code, or 3RW compete with larger firms like Snohetta, Jarmund Vigsnaes, Jensen & Skodvin, and Helen & Hard in international publications, and the work of smaller practices like Element Arkitekter, Tyin tegnestue, Rintala Eggert. The most successful of their projects are characterized by a clear attitude toward the landscape as well as the social backdrop, as well as a readable form and straightforward use of materials.

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Oslo Opera House_©Visit Norway

There is a rising awareness that aesthetics affect the physical and emotional health of persons who utilize a building or structure, which stems from the early austere idea that form should rigorously follow function. For decades, Norwegian occupational health standards have prioritized access to daylight and fresh air, and difficult climatic conditions may exacerbate the need for uplifting aesthetics.

Norwegian architectural design has stressed integration with the natural terrain, in addition to worries about air and water pollution. More recently, architects and engineers have collaborated to make the most of scarce resources like energy, water, and other natural resources. Norwegian populations have shifted dramatically in recent decades, leading to new religious structures and construction traditions in Norway. 

While it may be exaggerating to speak of a resurgence in traditional Norwegian architecture, the need to maintain or restore these traditions is increasingly influencing urban planning. Plans to revitalize Oppdal’s core and recent work in Oslo’s Grünerlkka district are two examples.

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References

UKEssays. November 2018. Vernacular Architecture In Norway. [online]. Available from: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/cultural-studies/learn-from-vernacular-architecture-in-norway-cultural-studies-essay.php?vref=1 [Accessed 12 September 2021].

Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Architecture of Norway. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Norway.

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norskfolkemuseum.no. (n.d.). Not found – Norsk Folkemuseum. [online] Available at: http://www.norskfolkemuseum.no/en/target-groups/About-the-Museum/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2021].

doga.no. (n.d.). Norwegian architecture today. [online] Available at: https://doga.no/en/activities/design-and-architecture-in-norway/architecture/architecture-in-norway/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2021].

Author

Devika Bhaskaran is an architecture student with absolute love for writing, poetry and travelling. She believes that there are beautiful and mind-blowing untold stories within people and places and she hopes to be a voice for the same. She is in a constant search for architectural wonders that are accessible to all kinds of humans.

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