Timber tradition with modern design cues

ARTICLE On a hill in the Norwegian mountain village of Sinnes stands a house dedicated to the surrounding forest. Made entirely of wood, the building is a modern take on the Norwegian cabin, with the playfully cheeky name Timber Temple.

With a smile, architect Knut Folstad explains what lies behind the modestly spectacular house, and its name Tømmertempelet (Timber Temple).

»The name is a bit of a joke, as it’s a little cabin, not a huge temple. But it does have a ring to it, and the house has made use of great craftsmanship and fine materials,« he says.

The Norwegian timber tradition dates back centuries. But Knut Folstad wants his wooden temple to be hard to place in a particular time and context, while still drawing on skilled artisans and rustic materials.

Together with the carpentry team from contractor Kjernebygg, he adapted old woodworking techniques to today’s circumstances and building regulations – and even took them a step further. The result: a building
that has grown out of the local tradition, while demonstrating contemporary design cues.

»Clearly, some of the cabin’s features refer back to the past. And they quickly begin to feel nostalgically romantic, so it was important for me to give the house a kind of aggressiveness, as expressed in the concertinaed cladding on the outside and in the clear structural simplicity of the interior. There has to be a little contradiction,« he says.

Knut wanted the cabin to feel as if it had emerged organically from the ground in the birch woodland.

»The starting focus was on creating the atmosphere of a log cabin, with that warm weight that timber gives.

The wood in the cabin comprises spruce floors and pine walls, treated with a coat of hardwax oil, along with custom-built furniture in ash. This lends the structure added aesthetic value,« according to Knut.

The cabin can actually be seen as two connected buildings: one small volume with the bathroom and toilet, and one main one with a sleeping loft, kitchen and living room. A diagonal line cutting through the building makes it feel bigger than it actually is:

»Take the kitchen for example. The diagonal creates a slightly narrower entrance from the corridor, then the kitchen opens up, before narrowing again,« explains Knut Folstad.

He believes that, when building on a smaller scale, it is important that the rooms have a clear identity, creating a strong hierarchy between intimate, smaller areas and generous communal spaces.

The diagonal layout also has a clear interplay with the narrow stairs up to the sleeping loft,
which are practically hidden in the wall.

»The stairs almost became like a rock crevice or a split in a log. To me, there is something of the landscape about it,« says Knut.

He is keen to draw on the analogy of the cabin as a naturally grown part of the landscape, and not just in the use of wood. The rocks that surround the cabin also continue indoors, in the paving stones that feature in the entrance and bathroom.

»You come in via some large stones that kind of lift you in from the hill outside, and I thought it would feel odd to walk in on concrete. Because my whole concept was to create something that had grown up from the
land, it was important to give that some recognition – and the stones do that. I also thought it would be quite nice to walk barefoot on the stones in the bathroom.« The bathroom unites the natural and the industrial. Knut Folstad had a bright green aluminium bathtub made to his own design.

»It was a smart solution. It was easy to get up here, but had something slightly industrial about it. And a simplicity: just a barrel to put water in. The green makes it a metaphor, like bathing in a pond.«

Architect Knut Folstad
» The stairs almost became like a rock crevice.«

Facing the bath are two levels of shutters. Open the top shutters and you can sit in the bath and admire the view outside. When the shutters are closed, the light filters through perforations in a slightly tongue-in-cheek flickering cross shape. The material needs to be not too compact, the impression not to stiff, says Knut Folstad.

»Punching holes in the shutters was a great way to avoid an overly monumental feel. I did smile to myself when I designed these sacred forms for the perforations. It was cool to have this tiny little bath and these pretentious crosses.«

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