Todd Saunders completes new Norwegian villa.
Overlooking breathtaking fjords and a stretch of Norway’s west coast archipelago, Villa Storingavika is a robust yet refined vessel from which to appreciate the delicate coastline and sometimes rugged climate. It is a pale timber volume enrobed in a crisp, ‘pleated’ dark timber exterior.
The site of Villa Storingavika, located on the outskirts of Bergen, comprises a rocky outcrop and garden but is essentially a rather compact area. “My primary aim,” Saunders recalls, “was to create more open space than the site first offered by reclaiming as much outdoor space as possible”. The house is oriented along the contours of the site and concrete stairs link an upper outdoor terrace with a lower lawn, utilising all of the natural terrain. This also minimises the impact of the house on the topography. Built-in concrete furniture is also integrated into the site, increasing the use of the lower terrace as an extension of the interior space.
As a work of architecture, Villa Storingavika is a textbook example of a regional modernism, combining the modern gesture of wide spanning platforms of space with the traditional forms and materials of Bergen’s light-framed timber houses. The building’s proportions are also akin to Bergen’s maritime architecture and its long history of two-storey timber buildings. Translating this established building approach to a restrained, contemporary volume links the house to its context, and ties it indelibly to the site. In its composition, the building relates to the outcrops of coastline that it frames.
Metaphorically, the house could be compared to the eroded outcrops of rocks it overlooks, with its cantilevered ledges and deep reveals and apertures. It has a sense of permanence that grounds it to the landscape. Three main materials are used in the project: glass, black-stained fir and oiled Canadian cedar. All of the decorative and aesthetic qualities of the building come from the materials themselves and the dimensions of those materials.
It is a very elemental, minimal response to the place, and continues through to the simple, robust and utilitarian details. Even the heating of the house arises out of the conditions of the place. A 200m long pipe extracts the constant heat of the ocean water, then recycles this heat back into the house to heat the floors. The system uses a fraction of the electrical energy that would otherwise be required for heating.