A Town Hall Almost Hidden in the Landscape
Inspired by nature and local building traditions the Town Hall in Eysturkommuna makes a subtle appearance at first glance. Nevertheless, the impact of the house is anything but minimal.

Bridges that not only serve to connect destinations, but become places in their own right, places where people meet and settle, have their own important space in history. Florence, Prague and Venice all have inhabited bridges that define the cities. In the darkness of the Faroese winter, a truly special building bridges not only the river in the village of Norðragøta but unites two municipalities that merges into one community in the municipality of Eystur.

Project name: Town Hall Eysturkommuna
Address: Oyran 2, FO-512 Norðragøta
Client(s): Eysturkommuna
Architect(s): Henning Larsen North Atlantic
Engineer(s): Spenn, Veri-Con, SMJ
Landscape Architect(s): Henning Larsen North Atlantic
Contractor: KBH
Other collaborators: Rók-EL, Z. Leitisstein, Signar á Fríðufløtum, ÁWAY, Klima, Stokholm
Competition period: Comission
Construction period: 2016-2017
Milestones, date: Inaugurated, December 2017
GFA: 750 m2 / 8000 ft
Henning Larsen
Partner responsible: Ósbjørn Jacobsen
Project manager: Ósbjørn Jacobsen
Scope/role: Lead Design Architect
Team/departments involved: Henning Larsen Faroe Islands
Material
Drawing credits: Henning Larsen
Photo credits: Nic Lehoux
Video credits: Henning Larsen (sketch movie), Nic Lehoux (drone)

One almost has to make an effort to make out the Town Hall. Not because the building is not spectacular, but because it understands and respects the distinctive Nordic nature that surrounds it. Discreetly cut into the lush landscape, seemingly floating between the river and the green grass blanket on the roof, the Town Hall creates the framework for the work of the City Council and the administrative staff. In the Faroe Islands, nature creates the framework for people’s lives and professions and physically, nature is always just around the corner.

Interpreting traditions on the road to shaping new: The Town Hall in Eysturkommuna pays tribute to the Nordic landscapes and the traditional local grass-roofed houses, but simultaneously defines a new path for contemporary Faroese architecture:

“Many contemporary contributions to Faroese architecture directly copy elements from traditional buildings. I find it much more interesting to look into the underlying thoughts of traditional buildings,” Ósbjørn Jacobsen, Partner at Henning Larsen says.

A central theme in traditional Faroese architecture is the blurred line between nature and building, the fact that the spectator has difficulties distinguishing where the landscape ends and the building begins. The primary conceptual idea behind the design of the Town Hall is driven by the notion of this fleeting line between landscape and building – I believe that could be one way to approach modern Faroese architecture,” Jacobsen adds.

Celebrating democracy: In the City Council Hall one clearly senses the closeness to nature and the river, visible through a circular mirror lined glass covered opening in the floor. The City Council convenes round the floor opening at a circular table inspired by kivas, the ceremonial chambers of Pueblo Native Americans. At this table, no one sits at the end, all meet on equal parliamentary terms. This is where the Municipality’s key decisions are made and through the glass covered floor one can even spot trout on their way up-stream or out into the open sea.

The sound and light installation of artist Jens Ladekarl Thomsen, inspired by sounds and structures in local society and nature, is built into the wooden cladding of the building. Passers-by experience that ‘the house speaks’ of the surroundings, thereby creating a new story of local nature and community.

Staging human interaction: Town Hall Eysturkommuna assumes the important task of establishing a space that will revive the local community. The terraces and roof are open to the public, people can come here to have picnics and swim in the river.

Before the fishing industry made its entry with a large and important factory, the attractive local beach was the natural gathering point at special occasions; the bon fire on New Year’s Eve was lit here, the flag day celebrated on April 25th and locals used the beach for sporting events. The factory is now an important driver in the local economy but Norðragøta also needs to reclaim spaces where people can gather.

According to plan, the Town Hall Eysturkommuna is the first building in a larger regeneration of the area. In the coming years the local community will be revived with buildings and events that support public life.

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