Thursday 12 March 2015

Norway: Architecture for a Dreamland Photo Essay

The reflective waters of Norway's Sognefjord is like a fairytale landscape of green mountains, clear lakes and picturesque villages. 
Travelling through Norway’s fjords and glaciers, Andreas Romagnoli captures this mysterious northern landscape and the country’s famous ancient churches and stark new architecture 

NORWAY'S landscape merges the grey-brown colors of winter with the green of spring and the ethereal blue of its lakes. The countryside’s scarce population make great stretches seem like uninhabited lands, where every journey represents a metaphorical journey within ourselves, exploring our fears and dreams.

But it is the architecture of Norway that captures the country’s response to changing cultural, climactic and economic conditions. International architectural influences are often apparent in Norwegian design but they are adapted to meet the local climate including the difficult winters and high winds. During the 20th century, the architecture has been determined mostly by Norwegian social policy and its focus on innovation.

The history of Norway differs from other European countries in never adopting feudalism and maintaining its traditional ways of farming. Combined with the prevalent use of wood as a building material, this ensured the country has few examples of the elaborate baroque, renaissance or rococo styles built by the ruling classes in the rest of Europe.

Much of Norway’s vernacular architecture has been preserved on farms in open-air museums that show buildings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century such as the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo and Maihaugen in Lillehammer.

Today, Norway is also the only country in Northern Europe with intact wooden churches from the Middle Ages. While stone cathedrals were being built across Europe, Norway continued building in wood. From the period of the Vikings, Norwegians worked with wood for boats and buildings. This tradition culminated in the stave churches.

These wooden churches are an important part of Norwegian architectural heritage and the oldest is Urnes Stave church in Luster by the Sognefjord. A church has been on the site since 1130 and the current building dates to the 17th century. The builders were aware of international trends in architecture but used wood instead of stone to create the new forms. The interior of the church is richly decorated with animal motifs such as elks and doves as well as centaurs and dragons. This decoration has become known as the Urnes style and it is the only stave church on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Oslo's Opera House built in 2008 is representative of the contemporary Norwegian aesthetic where glass and brick has replaced wood. Designed by Snøhetta architects, the Opera House is the place where Norwegians come to enjoy both the performances inside and the vast marble rooftop where they can contemplate their city and harbour and view the cluster of cranes soaring above new buildings.
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Grasses and hardy plants grow amid the lands surrounding a solitary wooden house in Eidfjord. 

Lighthouse on the coast at Krakenes.

Trollstigen or Troll's Road is a surreal landscape of undulating rocks and grasses.

Bergen's beautiful waterside promenade with it's traditional gabled buildings.

Bergen's imposing 19th century buildings are a mix of wood, stone and brick.

Alesund's apartments cluster around the water with boats moored virtually at the doorstep.

The famous Urnes Stavrchirchen from the 17th century and the oldest wooden church surviving in Europe today

Once a private church for a powerful family, the original builders were aware of international trends in architecture but used wood instead of stone.

This is the Stavrchirchen in Flam looking like a religious Ginger Bread house.

A masterclass in woodwork, the Norwegian traditonal churches go back to the Middle Ages. 

Two girls sitting on the vast marble rooftop of  the Oslo Opera House, contemplate the new construction going up around them.

The Oslo Opera House with it's marble roof terraces where Norwegians can stroll, skate and enjoy the harbour.

Snøhetta architects wanted the art, material, form, landscape and people to be united in the Opera House project. They worked with artists Jarunn Sannes, Kristian Blystad, and Kalle Grude to create the roof as a piece of public art. 

A girl plays on the Opera House's terraces. At 20,000 square meters, the marble roof is made from about 30,000 different stone pieces. 

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