by Pooja Suresh HollannavarFeb 15, 2023
The Norwegian southeastern coastline set the stage to a weekend retreat for a family, designed by Erik Kolman and Victor Boye, founders of Stockholm-based Kolman Boye Architects. This piece of residential architecture combines the local building vocabulary with an updated architectural language of resource efficiency. The building site is situated on a peninsula surrounded by the sea, known for its beautiful coastline and archipelago and the building sits gently, without reshaping the undulating terrain, amidst a landscape of rocks, lichen, ferns, conifers and deciduous trees, forming three volumes which are situated on five different levels.
Materiality is one of the distinctive features of the project, along with steep roofs and large windows that are designed to withstand the harsh coastal weather. The Saltviga House makes conscious use of oak and Douglas fir offcuts from Dinesen’s floor production. The Danish flooring brand, Dinesen, had a large volume of leftover wood available for use and approached Boye, who engages with students at the Royal Danish Academy, to explore new uses for this material. This led to appropriating the material at an architectural scale, using it in a cladding system that covers the walls and roof of the timber-framed house.
"In our recent projects and in our teaching and research, we have come across Dinesen materials as both the traditional floors and as a scrap, a leftover, an off-cut from the production of made-to-measure floors. Making and thinking with these leftovers from the production gave rise to a notion of making a building of them as a sympathetic way of using and ennobling scrap materials that would otherwise have been used as firewood. Besides being beautiful, the off-cuts are low in embodied carbon and could offer an alternative to more commonly used and more carbon intensive materials,” mentions the press statement.
Recycled wood offcuts, as a material, can be repurposed and reused in various ways, and these pieces of wood may have different sizes, shapes, and qualities, which can make them challenging to work with. In order to understand how much material would be needed, how it would look, and how much work would be involved in cutting it to size and treating it, the architects engaged in researching the material, its technical properties, and experiential effects.
Central to their work approach is working with materials and contributing to the physical building. The process also involves stacking and layering combinations through building several full scale mock-ups. “Differing from traditional split wooden shingles used in Norway, the research into these sawn timber planks resulted in a straight-forward yet complex approach that required traditional material knowledge as well as a considerable process development to make it work in a timely and economical fashion,” state the architects.
Each of the 12,000+ individual oak offcuts were pre-cut to size with minimal waste; pre-drilled and pre-treated with tar at the studio’s workshop, before being transported to the site. The production and assembly of the timber elements for the building drew on the collective knowledge of the involved carpenters, joiners, and suppliers. Each individual oak element required precise handling; and the assembled and layered cladding was reinforced with the assistance of 20,000+ stainless steel screws.
The architects separated the house into smaller volumes, responding to the landscape, forming two main blocks, connected with a corridor. One houses the large kitchen and dining space, while the other contains three bedrooms, a bathroom, a loft, and an informal lounge space. The distinct spaces separated by a courtyard towards the forest are protected from winds, and are flanked by decks that provide clear views towards the sea and opportunities to enjoy the sun during different times of the day.
The interior spaces, each with a distinct volume and ceiling height are flanked around the central hallway, having clear views through the entire house, bringing a sense of unity and coherence to the different levels. The expansive windows maintain a connection of the inside with what lies outside and beyond, providing views towards the surrounding landscape.
Wood is a distinctive feature inside too. While the exterior cladding will eventually turn silver-grey and blend in with the slate and granite landscape outside, the interior Douglas cladding, including a kitchen cabinet that is made from the material offcuts is kept in a slightly warmer, whitish hue, balanced by the neutral screed floors.
The ideas explored in the project align with the principles of the circular economy. It helps to minimise waste, reduce resource consumption, and promote a more sustainable built environment. With research at the core of their practice, the architects have been able to create conscious, sustainable architecture which responds to its context, and is simple in its form yet rich in detail.
Name: The Saltviga House
Location: Grimstad, Norway
Year of Completion: 2022
Architects: Kolman Boye Architects
Area: 200 sqm
Engineers: Limträteknik, Falun
Builder: Byggmester Modalen, Høvåg