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Master's thesis

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27. Nordic light

Location Oslo. Norway
Status Competition
Year 2014

With Filip Bjerke Fyri


Nowadays, sustainability is a trendy word, widely overused, and we have to be aware that in fact sustainability has been existing for ages. During the Antiquity, for instance, people were using material as they were, without transforming it which : it is the quintessence of being sustainable. Indeed they were building houses with what they found on site, then the architecture was more a matter of how materials were organised than how nice or functional it could be.
At that time there were no words to describe that pragmatic way of thinking. Sustainability, as a word, came up lately at the end of the XXth century. Since that period and until today it became a point to reach more and more important. We can not say that it’s insane regarding to how our resources are declining a little more each day. But, for example, in the architecture field, we reach the point that sustainable buildings are not showing any signs of architecture anymore which is terrifying for two reasons. First, architects are no longer useful. Second, buildings which used to be architecture, become an organisation, not of material, but of technical knowledge answering a grid to get a green label : “ The architecture exists only at the mercy of the technological achievements of engineering better material solutions”¹. The role of the architect seems to be only summarized to put some green in between to storeys or in front of the triple glazed windows.
Architecture is losing its soul making cities or new neighbourhood being built based on sustainability identical, all over the world.

A few years ago we were scared that globalisation will make us all the same but it has been proved that actually sustainability is doing this. As students and young architects we have to be mindful of that and prepared to fight against that preconception of architecture devastated by a technicist way of thinking.


Regarding to that situation we agree that sustainability has to be involved in architecture. Every architect and every single human being is concerned about that topic. Nevertheless it should not be a point to reach but either a tool used during the design process to improve the quality – not only the comfort – of the building. Therefore, sustainability it’s no longer the only input to have in mind when we are designing a building.
By quality we want to evoke the atmosphere of building. We said above, that architecture is losing its soul and it is not able to generate atmosphere anymore. We are deeply convinced that architecture starts by establishing an atmosphere regarding to local and global issues. Then we enter a process where we have to make choices and concessions to reach that atmosphere. We also agree that sustainability should go further than some simple regulations or standards. To our opinion it’s definitely related to resources and knowledge which are both local and global. Then architecture becomes translocal and “it is able to operate interconnections between different cultures without denying their singularities”².

Some of the buildings of the Voralberg region in Austria can illustrate that way of dealing with those two scales by still creating an atmosphere. On another side, we can also emphasized that in general the program are not mass housing or either large scale building in which is complicated to keep a straight line for the design process.


Nordic light
Through that meeting point pavilion we tried to have precisely that kind of process. We asked the question of resources, knowledge, materiality, the meeting point by itself, its location….
We chose to work on one pavilion which highlights the Nordic light as one of the main resource we can find here in Norway. As a reference we looked towards Japanese culture where light is used to define boundaries. Light defines the degree of privacy as well as the degree of consideration you have for your guests.

The pavilion is located in a very pragmatic way: it has to be easily visible and easily accessible. Thus it is in the middle of the three stages. The horizontal light of the roof breaks the monotony of the tree stems around and tries to assert itself as a part of the location without offending it.

The pavilion uses the darkness as a way to settle the different levels of privacy which have to lead to emphasize the quality of the Nordic light. Outside, the roof prepares the visitor to enter into the pavilion with softer indoor light. The paths inside are darker and the space oscillates between a narrow corridor or a wider room which gives depth to the darkness. The main room has a diffuse indirect light coming from a roof opening towards the north. The inside atmosphere tries to suspend time from the festival community. The space can be understood either as a spiritual space or as a place to rest before going back to the festival.

Working with darkness to reveal the light is quite challenging and we manage to reach that point by using oak. Using wood was obvious because it’s one of the main resource that Norway has. Alvar Aalto had an interesting opinion regarding to it: “even if I don’t like wood I have to use it because forest almost represent 75% of the Finland”, a both pragmatic and sustainable thought.
To emphasize the graduation of darkness we could have painted the wood with some greyscale painting but it seems more interesting to consider wood as a living material and work with its inner structure. That is why we mean it could be interesting to work with the chemical reaction wood can get. One can darken oak by applying a mixture of white vinegar and steel wool. The iron in the mixture will cause a corrosion to the material which then darkens. The amount of iron in the vinegar determines the gradient.


¹ An-unstainable lack of edge, appendix 120 Hours 2014
² The Radicant, Nicolas Bourriaud . Sternberg Press, 2009. 192 p.

Site plan
Site plan
Ground floor plan
Ground floor plan
Nordic light
Nordic light