MORK ULNES IN VILLA DIALOGUE

A second home, an escape, a sanctuary, a base for adventure, expeditions, ski trips, bærsanking and bike rides. A place to relax, rejuvenate, restore. The hytte as a unique Norwegian phenomenon. A phenomenon that has evolved for many years out of the uniqueness of those that inhabit them.
The unique Norwegians…
Long ago the hardy Norwegians began their lives roaming the rugged mountains and sailing the wild seas. Some eventually became farmers living in small, simple cabins on pockets of farmland. These quaint structures were scattered Throughout the valleys and stretched high up into the mountains where stock grazed during summer. Many remaining Norwegians sailed the stormy seas hauling fish from the cold, Nordic waters, their families anxiously awaiting their return in robust dwellings that clung to the rugged coastlines. Throughout this evolution the Norwegians coincidently developed a deep affinity with the demanding landscape and the natural world around them. They formed a bond with the land and sea. A bond with nature and their simple dwellings that protected them from it. Simple dwellings that were the beginnings of the great Norwegian hytte. (The Norwegian hytte; The essential guide to the great Norwegian hytte-Jenny K Blake).

 

 

 Villa Magazine No.13, Villas in Norway

 

When a “Hytte” wants to be a “Villa”

Mork-Ulnes Architects

 

 

 

I use these words from Jenny K Blake to make this conversation with Mork unlnes; the San Francisco/Oslo-based architects, whose compact yet expansive cabin creatively reinterprets Norwegian local hytte typology.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
The villa, as the eminent architectural historian James Ackerman observed, is not limited to any particular architectural type, culture, or historical moment but rather is a social and ideological phenomenon discernible throughout history. What do you think about Villa typology in Norway?
Casper Mork Ulnes:
Well, Villa typology can be similar to Hytte typology, which is used to describe a type of detached house that is surrounded by natural elements and doesn’t resemble any particular architectural style.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
So the social and economic settings that grow up around this building can be labeled as “Hytte Culture”, which is similar to “Villa Culture” in Rome and “Bagh culture” in Persia.
Casper Mork Ulnes:
Yes. Hytter (cabins) are a huge part of Norwegian culture, with over a quarter of all Norwegians owning at least one.
The traditional Norwegian hytte is small and primitive, serving a simple utilitarian purpose to shelter, often with an outdoor toilet and no running water.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
Can we use the term “Villa” instead of the words of the House, Cabin, or “Hytte” in some of your works?
Casper Mork Ulnes:
Yes, if it looks good. Hytte is the Norwegian word for the cabin.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
What were the challenges in your innovative approach towards designing “Villa Mylla”?
Casper Mork Ulnes:
The design challenge was to rework the traditional hytte building type so that it still maintained its utilitarian character — compact, efficient, and driven by function — but to form the building in relation to its landscape and create an interior that felt more expansive and generous — and still included three bedrooms and two full (though tiny) bathrooms in 84 m2.


Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
The project is bringing an outdoor lifestyle; does it seem to be responsive to its surroundings?
Casper Mork Ulnes:
The pin-wheel plan and sloping roof form are derived from the climate, the desire to separate the bedrooms for privacy, and to offer contrasting views from each room. In that sense, the building is a very straightforward response to its context, while at the same time generating a unique experience.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
The project “Meier Villa” is trying to use the repertory of the benefits of villa-life: relaxation, recreation, conversation, health (mentally/physically/spiritually), inserting a domestic life into an imaginary life.
Casper Mork Ulnes:
The client wanted to create an indoor/outdoor environment that is comfortable, interesting, and attractive. A place that is conducive to a sustainable lifestyle.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
What were the approaches and factors in the conceptual phase?
Casper Mork Ulnes:
The catalyst and driving design factor for the project were creating a second life for an old, derelict barn on the rural property located in Sebastopol. Using the barn typology had an instant appeal. The main challenge became to create an ideal art studio within the barn vernacular.
Inverting the traditional gable barn roof created sweeping double-height spaces for art production and storage, while providing natural ventilation, indirect northern light conditions, and views out toward the property.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
Why have you chosen concrete as your dominant material in “Ridge Villa”?
Casper Mork Ulnes:
Given the clients’ desire for a low-maintenance and fire-resistant shell, concrete became a natural choice and the defining material in the project. When using a material with inherently distinctive qualities—in this case, texture, mass, structural capacity—we explore what that material can do to enhance the experience of the space. Designing in this way, the project becomes fundamentally bound to the material’s character. For us, it was important to experience both concrete sculptural, monolithic qualities, and the openness that such a structure affords. The building appears solid, heavy and grounded from the south and west frontages. It provides privacy for the guesthouses and shelter from southern and western solar exposure.
Upon entering, the building opens up dramatically. It feels light as it creates an unexpected intimacy with the landscape beyond.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
What is the concept of “Troll Hus” driven from? and What is the meaning of “Troll Hus”?
Casper Mork Ulnes:
We call the house “Troll Hus”, with a reference to the otherworldly beings in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore that are said to dwell in remote mountains. The building footprint was kept as compact as possible to settle quietly into the site, yet also capture filtered views of the surrounding landscape. The inspiring concept is that of a treehouse that, as if suspended between treetops, seamlessly and ingeniously blends with its surroundings.