In architecture there is a philosophy that strives to establish harmony and synchronicity between human habitats and the natural environment. Termed “organic architecture,” it calls for a design approach that integrates a building into its site as seamlessly, and with as little disruption to the natural features of the property, as possible. Often it involves materials and decorative elements that unify the structure with its locale, and create repetition in its motifs and themes. In the Norwegian county of Buskerud lies a contemporary and minimalist Scandinavian mountain lodge crafted from the untreated pinewood common to the region; it is the epitome of organic architecture, imbued with many traditional characteristics of Norwegian edifices. Featuring angular designs and soaring steepled windows that produce a kaleidoscope of light, the chalet presents stunning views of the Hallingdal mountains rising beyond the sprawling plateaus. “It’s our belief that all architecture should follow the site qualities as much as possible. So, we placed the home in a position where we didn’t have to do a big transformation or harm the vegetation; it’s a delicate process,” says architect Reiulf Ramstad of Reiulf Ramstad Architects (RRA). “You go to the mountains to experience nature and to think, so it’s very important to implement this type of architecture as a counterpoint to conventional urban architecture because it impacts how you experience nature. In the end, you have a building that is very connected to life.”
When RRA took on the Split View Mountain Lodge project, the clients had in mind a home that was expansive and not precisely in step with RRA’s organic ideology. The firm’s creative process allowed the clients an opportunity to clarify their needs, resulting in a home that was best suited to their lifestyle. “We convinced them to reduce the size of the footprint to define very small spaces,” explains Ramstad. “In the double walls they have fixed furniture, so they don’t really need a lot of furniture around. And, because you can sit in the walls and niches, an intimate relationship is created between the person and the space,” says Ramstad. Really, one of the most intriguing design elements of Split View Mountain Lodge is a series of built-in cavities throughout the home that are like secret cubbyholes. “[The owners] told us afterwards that the experience changed their minds, in a way, about how to live.” The home is constructed with double walls, extra insulation, and it is heated with a geothermal system and two fireplaces, to be energy efficient and economical. RRA positioned the fireplaces where they would become focal décor features: one is an eye-catching, free-hanging spherical fixture, and the other a two-sided fireplace cast in glass fibre reinforced concrete.
In Norway, much like in the Canadian landscape, the climate can be harsh but the scenery and natural geological formations are spectacular. Set in the grassy highlands, which become snow-covered during the winter months, it made sense that the home would strive to capture as much of the available scenery and natural light as possible. This is what drove Ramstad to create the unique wing shape that gives Split View Mountain Lodge its name. “We split the home because of the fantastic natural formations,” he says. “We wanted to focus specifically on the view of the mountain in one room and, in a different room facing another direction, a mountain range with a year-round glacier formation.” According to Ramstad, this led to different shapes and forms in the building, which mimic traditional architecture in Norway’s urban regions.
At the same time, building a home in the high latitudes of the mountains is very dissimilar from building a home in a town or city, where “conventional domestic programs” dictate design. “Houses in Norway can be very tight together to combat the climatic conditions, and we were inspired by this. [We] sought to have the two buildings [of Split View Mountain Lodge] recall this way of gathering small buildings together,” says Ramstad.
From its eco-friendly features to its near-organic design elements, Split View Mountain Lodge reinforces the variation found in nature and affects the way its guests look out into the natural world. It’s a true reflection of organic architecture in action.
Photography by Søren Harder Nielsen.