On top of a mountain in Kvitfjell, Norway is a regular grid of 45 wooden columns suspending a 144 square meter cabin 1.5 meters above the ground. These columns are clad with skigard – 3 meter long quarter-cut logs traditionally laid out diagonally by farmers as fencing. The cabin’s roof is overgrown with native grasses. Inside, the all-wood cabin is divided into four spaces, each under a frustum ceiling capped with a skylight. The spaces are intimately scaled but open visually and physically to the dramatic landscape. Two opposing 6 meter-wide glass walls provide the main living space with the sensation of being outdoors, and each room captures views of the surrounding nature and Gudbrandsdal Valley below.
Reinterpreting the vernacular. Skigard Hytte is a site specific response to Norway’s cultural landscape. Its design is informed by rural building types and our understanding of how functional historical structures shape the local architectural culture.
A quintessentially Norwegian building type, the Stabbur (storehouse) is raised above the earth to protect its contents from rodents and its structure from snow. Skigard Hytte replaces the stacked stone and log columns of this vernacular building with prefabricated CLT columns on steel posts that connect it to bedrock.
The rough skigard cladding, while similarly referencing rural forms, masks the cabin within the immediate forest and landscape.
Above, the grass roof of the cabin recalls traditional sod roofs common on log houses in Scandinavia until the late 19th century. One of the few materials allowed by local planning regulations for roofs in the area, this fuzzy top softens the otherwise rigid geometry of the cabin and provides excellent insulation and drainage. The rectilinear form is divided into a regular enfilade sequence of rooms along a central corridor (known as a Trønderlån in Norway).
Touching the earth lightly. In lieu of a conventional slab foundation which flattens the terrain, the piers that support the cabin preserve the contours below. A former animal path now provides access for humans and animals, with sheep standing and grazing under the house in the summer to protect themselves from the weather. In winter, the piers circumvent the need to shovel when heavy snowfall accumulates around the house.
The most sustainable square foot is the one that you do not build. The compact floorplan of the cabin accommodates up to 14 people sleeping in less than 150 square meters. Floor to ceiling views maintain a feeling of spaciousness in this efficient interior, while frustum ceilings create intimate zones within larger spaces.
Tree-House. Taking advantage of Norway’s sustainable forestry, the cabin is built almost entirely from locally-sourced wood and forestry by-products. The unconventional roughness of the exterior skigard siding contrasts with a unified interior where smooth, solid pine paneling creates a palpable warmth. The cabin uses as few non-wood materials as possible; its insulation, door and window frames, exterior cladding, wall paneling, furniture, shower walls and floors, toilet flush plates, ventilation plates, and even refrigerator handles were crafted of Norwegian wood.
Photos by Bruce Damonte, Juan Benavides.
Project Team: Phi Van Phan, Casper Mork Ulnes, Lexie Mork Ulnes, Inez Tazi, Kristina Line, Auste Cijunelyte, Monika Lipinska