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Architecture

The architects behind Juvet Landscape Hotel, Jensen & Skodvin, wanted to create a hotel that would not intrude upon nature, but rather exist in harmony with the landscape of which it is a part. The concept of a landscape hotel emerged as an opportunity to offer an experience of stunning natural beauty with minimal intervention, opening up locations that would otherwise be prohibited for reasons of conservation.

The Juvet Landscape Hotel is located at Valldal, near the town of Åndalsnes in North-Western Norway. Passing tourists are attracted by a spectacular waterfall in a deep gorge near the road, “Gudbrandsjuvet”. The owner, Knut Slinning, is a local resident.

“The idea emerged as an opportunity to exploit breathtaking scenery with minimal intervention.”

In winter, this high mountain pass has to be closed off because of the heavy snowfalls in the mountains, and any traffic is directed along a considerably longer route by the sea, making the desolate ambience of the place clearer.

 

Sustainability
The site for the hotel is a nature reserve. After extensive negotiations with conservation authorities, permission was eventually granted for a plan allowing a maximum of 28 rooms to be built without the need for rock blasting or alterations to the terrain.

Instead of a conventional hotel with guest rooms stacked together in one large building, the idea was to distribute the rooms throughout the site in the form of small, individual houses.

“Conserving the site is a way to respect the fact that nature precedes and succeeds man.”

Today’s concern for sustainability in architecture focuses almost exclusively on reduced energy consumption in production and operation. We believe that conservation of topography is another aspect of sustainability that deserves attention. Standard building procedure requires the general destruction of the site to accommodate foundations and infrastructure before building can commence. Conserving the site is a way to respect the fact that nature precedes and succeeds man.

When we observe the topography of the site, we facilitate an experience where the geometry of the man-made accentuates the irregular quality of nature, shedding greater light on both the structure itself and its context. A sustainable connection is established between structure and site.

 

A feeling of spaciousness
The hotel has been built in two main phases. Seven rooms and a separate spa building were built in the first phase, from 2007 to 2010. In the second phase, from 2012 to 2013, two more rooms have been added. The two new rooms are in keeping with the main approach, although they have been constructed with both a more sophisticated, and a more simple architectural language and technology.

“We wanted to create a feeling that the rooms were as boundless as the landscape outside.”

Including the latest addition, nine rooms have been completed altogether, with the possibility of more to come. All the rooms have slightly different designs, as a result of local topographical needs and how the trees are positioned, as well as to maximise the requirements for privacy and the best possible views. No rooms necessitate rock blasting or changes to the terrain, as the rooms integrate into the existing topography.

 

The technology
Every house has one or two walls that are entirely built in glass. Through careful orientation every room gets its own exclusive view of piece of the landscape, changing with the season, the weather, and the time of day. No room looks into another so the rooms are experienced as private even though curtains are not used. We wanted to give the rooms an experienced space that is as large as the landscape.

The first seven rooms are built in a massive wood construction with no exterior insulation, and are intended for summer use only. Each building rests on a set of 40mm massive steel rods drilled into the rock, existing topography and vegetation left almost untouched. The glass is set against slim frames of wood, locked with standard steel profiles, using stepped edges to extend the exterior layer of the main glass surfaces all the way to the corners.

The interiors are treated with transparent oil with black pigments, so that reflections from the inner surface of the glass wall are minimized. Shelves, benches and a small table are all built by the same massive wooden elements to maintain a certain degree of monotony that goes well with the complex nature views and to keep the visual presence of the interior at a minimum.

 

The two new rooms
The two new rooms are built in the style of the old Norwegian stabbur, a little log house for storing food, which would rest upon small stone foundations in each corner to elevate it so that no mice or rats could enter. The new houses are built on very steep terrain, at some points with a 60 degree incline. The whole room is raised above the slope and rests on steel pilings with a diameter of 30 mm. The room is lifted several metres off the ground at the most, which gives a heady feeling of towering above your surroundings.

The new rooms have a more minimalist architectural language, constructed as log houses and using the same type of timber in the floor, walls and roof. This creates a monotony of expression that allows for a greater variation with regard to other elements, such as the sizes of windows.

The windows are set directly into the log structure, which is not a normal detail. This contributes to the simplicity of these two rooms, since only a small number of different elements and materials is used. Each window has been tailored for a special purpose, as it is designed to showcase the most sublime perspectives available from any point in the room, be it a waterfall, a river, or a mountaintop.

The doors are made without conventional hinges, because the height of the house will vary by around 40 mm from February (lowest) to September (highest). The hinge is a circular pole that rests in a hole in the floor, with a corresponding hole in the roof, allowing for the changes in height during the year. A specific geometric solution in the roof allows for hanging and de-hanging the door after the house has been erected. The door panel, a glass pane, is slotted into the vertical pole which makes up the hinge.


 

A flower garden
The slots in the wall where the glass panes are inserted are painted in different colours, chosen in collaboration with artist Knut Wold. There are always four different colours for the four different sides of each opening, and each colour appears only once in each room.

This is reminiscent of an abstract flower garden, a sight that is pleasing to the eye, both in the lush summer season and the dark and colourless winter. In this respect, it has the function of the colourful and decorative tole painting tradition so common to the traditional Norwegian log houses, but in a more muted and modernist form.

Local roots

The entire construction process took five years, and encompassed the restoration of old farm buildings, safeguarding the cultural landscape, and the design, planning and execution of the project. All of the carpentry work, both on the interior and exterior, was carried out by neighbours and local craftsmen in Valldal, including Valldal Bygdeservice. The only task for which we needed outside help was in mounting the windows.


Phase one
Client/owner: Knut Slinning
Project architects JSA: Jan Olav Jensen (project leader), Børre Skodvin, Torunn Golberg, Helge Lunder, Torstein Koch, Thomas Knigge
Landscape architect: Jensen & Skodvin
Site consultant: Finn Erik Nilsen, civil engineer
Artist: Knut Wold
Year planned: 2004–2009
Year built: 2007–2009
Status: Completed
Area: 800 m2

Phase two
Client/owner: Knut Slinning
Project architects JSA: Jan Olav Jensen (project leader), Torstein Koch
Landscape architect: Jensen & Skodvin
Site consultant: Finn Erik Nilsen, civil engineer
Artist: Knut Wold
Year planned: 2012–2013
Year built: 2012–2013
Status: Completed
Area: 30 m2