Fleinvær Refugium is an artist residency built akin to a small Nordic fishing village

Located in the remote archipelago of Fleinvær, Norway, and designed by Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects, the solitary structures tread sensitive terrain.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Nov 09, 2021

Sitting at a tailor-made spot to catch the Northern lights in all their glory, the Fleinvær Refugium is designed with precision and preempted planning, to be perched upon sensitive terrain. The Arctic cabin-architecture remarkably develops in tandem with the beautiful, virgin terrain, characteristic of Norwegian architecture. While unmatched natural sights lend to the novelty of the structure, the architecture responds to the terrain in materiality, in form, even in coming together. The latter is particularly evident in the way the structure was planned and its construction executed: a marked deviation from convention and functional linearity. “During the first phase of the design, it became evident to everyone involved that a piece of nature so vulnerable, delicate and architectonic in itself had to be saved from excavators and demolition machines by means of planning and re-organisation of the programme,” states an official release by Rintala Eggertsson Architects, on the approach they took to have the building sensitively settle into the land it drew from.

  • The artist residency is located in the remote archipelago of Fleinvær in Northern Norway | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The artist residency is located in the remote archipelago of Fleinvær in Northern Norway Image: Pasi Aalto
  • The settlement is earmarked by individual structures to house each function to ensure minimum impact on the sensitive site | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The settlement is earmarked by individual structures to house each function to ensure minimum impact on the sensitive site Image: Pasi Aalto

As a consequence and contrary to convention, the entirety of Fleinvær was planned in unitary, solid blocks. Each of the individual functions of the ‘building’ in a non-traditional sense constitute a building on their own: the sauna is located on a pier by the waterfront, the main cabins are at the bottom of the hill, and the primary workspace is at a recess in the hillside. The architects cite the functional morphology of the place as closely resembling a number of fishing villages along the coastline, that have been there since the earliest days of the already sparse settlement in the archipelago along the northern edge of Norway. The buildings acquire the definition of a “man-made installation”, interestingly, and are treated with a certain ‘lightness’ according to the capacity of the terrain and prevailing wind directions. “We have taken care to inflict as few wounds as possible on Fleinvær. We achieve this in part by making good pathways, spaces between the houses, and a common fireplace. This steers traffic away from the isles' more sensitive areas,” explains Sami Rintala.

  • The architecture is highlighted by a modern representation of the indigenous Sami Njalla structure | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The architecture is highlighted by a modern representation of the indigenous Sami Njalla structure Image: Pasi Aalto
  • While all the other structures ensure a minimal footprint, the Njalla cabin is elevated off the ground using a slender cylindrical column | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    While all the other structures ensure a minimal footprint, the Njalla cabin is elevated off the ground using a slender cylindrical column Image: Pasi Aalto

While this lends an interesting new perspective to “living with nature” in pockets around the planet wherein nature itself is a ferocious being, what this also does, in essence, is eliminate any virtual occurrence of a “negative space”. All circulation is cast outside the main structure, which impressively may also be seen as an additional step to connecting with nature. Imagine being witness to the Northern lights after a late night of work, walking up to your cabins to retire for the day!

  • The shore bordering Fleinvær ensures remoteness and inspiration for resident artists | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The shore bordering Fleinvær ensures remoteness and inspiration for resident artists Image: Pasi Aalto
  • The four residential cabins comprise two typologies, the wider and shorter ones, and the taller, narrower ones, housing different types of resting quarters within | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The four residential cabins comprise two typologies, the wider and shorter ones, and the taller, narrower ones, housing different types of resting quarters within Image: Pasi Aalto
  • The shingled appearance of timber on the cabins’ facades are a result of skilled wooden craftsmanship by carpenters who stayed on the archipelago for the project’s duration | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The shingled appearance of timber on the cabins’ facades are a result of skilled wooden craftsmanship by carpenters who stayed on the archipelago for the project’s duration Image: Pasi Aalto

The structural highlight of the entire hamlet-like development is a small cabin set aside on the top of a singular column. Referencing the vernacular architecture of the indigenous Sami people in the area, the Njalla and its pitch are beautifully framed in a series of tangerine-coloured external frames, in turn framing views of the cluster of buildings and the horizon. Like the tip of an iceberg, immediately visible but harbouring much more as one proceeds closer, the Njalla aptly “completes the composition”.

  • View of the extensive Norse landscape from the Njalla cabin | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    View of the extensive Norse landscape from the Njalla cabin Image: Pasi Aalto
  • The wider residential cabins comprise rooms with beds on a twin sharing basis | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The wider residential cabins comprise rooms with beds on a twin sharing basis Image: Pasi Aalto
  • The common fireplace area and bunk beds in the narrower cabins | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    The common fireplace area and bunk beds in the narrower cabins Image: Pasi Aalto

Away from massive footprints of civilisation, a picturesque site brings with it a unique set of challenges. The design and execution for Fleinvær was processed in four separate design-build workshops for the structures. Given the remote and sensitive nature of the site, all material had to be transported to the island, and then carried to the site itself by manual force. Wood, in that case, was a rather natural material choice owing to its sustainable and carbon-binding factors, along with an extreme ease of ‘malleability’ on site. Two expertly qualified craftsmen, Andy Devine and Ruben Stranger, assisted with crafting the wooden edifice to finality, being involved in every process of erecting the cabins by staying at the archipelago till the project’s fruition.

  • Elevational view of the entire Fleinvær settlement, with its morphology resembling that of a small fishing village | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    Elevational view of the entire Fleinvær settlement, with its morphology resembling that of a small fishing village Image: Pasi Aalto
  • Fleinvær Refugium: Elevational drawing | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    Fleinvær Refugium: Elevational drawing Image: Courtesy of Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Other interesting structural and spatial details line the development with a similar agenda. A former waiting room in the old docks has been refurbished to now accommodate overnight guests, along with holding sanitary functions. The four sleeping units, further upwards, are shared spaces comprising two relatively shorter and wider units with twin beds, along with two other that are taller and narrower, containing twin bunk beds. A pathway leads through these lodges and into the heart of the Immersion Room; the concert room and the canteen. The Njalla structure houses the project’s ‘Room of Reflection’, perched atop the trunk of a chopped tree, inspiring freedom through isolation. The foundations of all structures are stated to be ‘minimalised’, consisting of steel columns curved at angles of 15 degrees, so as to maximise the possibility of height-wise adaptation to the terrain, and minimise impact on-ground. The Refugium now impressively serves as an important source of income for the small community of 30 odd people living on the islands.

  • Fleinvær Refugium: Axonometric drawing | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    Fleinvær Refugium: Axonometric drawing Image: Courtesy of Rintala Eggertsson Architects
  • Conceptual sketches developed during four extensive design-build workshops including students and the architects | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    Conceptual sketches developed during four extensive design-build workshops including students and the architects Image: Courtesy of Rintala Eggertsson Architects

The genesis of the project lay with musician and composer Håvard Lund, who commissioned the project as a collaborative space for art, including his own, to foster among natural inspiration. Interestingly, the site also serves as a muse for one of his more cosmic-sounding albums featuring brilliant touches of Indian classical music, called Blix by Lund. Designed as a collaborative effort between the two prominent architecture firms, Fleinvær Refugium is also strangely an embodiment of the art it seeks to foster. “Fleinvær got to me from the first moment. For such a long time I had lived so close to this paradise, without having the slightest idea it existed. It was like being in the place where the sun sets. Beautiful and weathered, a 'rock n roll'-nature that hits you right in the face,” recalls Lund on his first encounter with the archipelago. Nestled within the Norse landscape, with a shore on one hand and extensive, meadow-like greens on the other, often covered under a blanket of snow during the harsher months, the timber edifice often resembles a meticulously painted composition. The location and setting beg to be captured from any perspective. The peace it invokes in turn speaks volumes of Lund’s own musical odyssey, traversing galaxies through compositions.

  • 01 min watch Timelapse showcasing the Northern lights over Fleinvær Refugium | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    Timelapse showcasing the Northern lights over Fleinvær Refugium Video: Courtesy of Rintala Eggertsson Architects
  • 03 mins watch Music video for the property’s owner, Norwegian musician and composer, Håvard Lund’s album, Blix by Lund filmed around the cabins and the shore | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    Music video for the property’s owner, Norwegian musician and composer, Håvard Lund’s album, Blix by Lund filmed around the cabins and the shore Video: Courtesy of Rintala Eggertsson Architects
  • 01 min watch Residents describing their experience of staying at the Fleinvær artists’ residency, and the readily available inspiration from nature | Fleinvær Refugium | Rintala Eggertsson Architects and Tyin Tegnestue Architects | STIRworld
    Residents describing their experience of staying at the Fleinvær artists’ residency, and the readily available inspiration from nature Video: Courtesy of Rintala Eggertsson Architects

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