Traditional in Tvedstrand – Architecture

Traditional in Tvedstrand – Architecture

Traditional architecture is characterized by a hierarchy of forms, from the general form of the building to the details. For example, from a distance you want to experience windows as black holes in the wall, while when you get up close, it’s the window division, lighting and decorations that characterize the experience.

On the ground level, the Kastler Skjeseth and Studio Lon project in Tvedestrand is distinguished by the interesting grid pattern of the facades. This may have its characteristics, but I feel the proportions of the model are dangerously close to the point at which you start to experience faint flicker. From a distance, you can see that this pattern turns into a grey-green mush, and there is a loss of some of the more powerful elements that could make up perception. We see the same thing up close, where the style lacks the details and transitions that can create a meaningful hierarchy. The experience is flat and generic, and only works on one scale.

All of this is intentional modernity. The identity of the windows as objects is suppressed, and they are forced into the overall pattern in the same way as the wood cladding, which is alternately horizontal and vertical, adapting to the pattern with very fine transitions. The front edges of the balcony, which would have been structural visual elements, for example if they were slightly wider than the windows, were also compressed to fit the solid abstract pattern. I realize that these are just preliminary drawings and that not all the details have been worked out. But the intentions are clear enough.

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None of this is practical. In a demanding climate like Norway, where rain, sleet and sun alternate and where materials collide, the most functional thing is that the parts of the building overlap each other, and that there is room for the movements and deformations caused by the climate of the buildings. Traditional architecture has this function. And functionality goes hand in hand with a readable, hierarchically organized visual experience.

Kastler Skjeseth and Studio Lon are two skilled architects. I have no doubt that they have a great love and humility for the traditional architecture of Tvedstrand. I have no doubt that they will be able to design the fine details so well that they don’t crack or leak. But there is no escaping the fact that the modernist style of the building works against the climate and against the basic principles of human perception.

Kastler Skjeseth and Studio Lon confirm their modernist thinking in statements they made to Arkitektur. It quickly gets skewed when “you just scale the McMansion-like Southern cottages,” says Erlend Skjeseth. But Norwegian cities should have plenty of good references for four-storey buildings which would be closer to the traditional architecture of Tvedstrand than the modern buildings they have introduced. What could it look like? With traditional architecture? Skjeseth counters the fantasy with the statement that they “will not fall entirely into the open arms of architectural rebellion and paint Greek columns.”

Greek columns? The architectural revolution is often told that they underestimate debate, so should we hear it from the professionals?

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This is a statement that could only come from a true modernist, who always sees the history of architecture from the outside, as something that can only be approached like an abandoned park, but who never dares to enter with all his love for architecture.

When the inept Kastler Skjeseth and Studio Lon, not even in a historically protected place like Tvedestrand, achieve anything other than (by all accounts sympathetic) modernism, we understand how far the architectural profession has fallen from daring to enter the history of architecture.

If all the modernists had designed great projects like Kastler Skeseth and Studio Lohn, we might not have witnessed an architectural revolution. Kastler Skjeseth and the sympathetic Studio Lon project in Tvedestrand deserve praise. However, when I make criticisms of Modernism in this particular project, it is because I would very much like to see the talents of Kastler Skjeseth and Studio Lunn used outside the constraints of Modernism.

Why these narrow front edges of the balcony that are not allowed to spread out a bit? Why this flat slide of entrance canopy? Why is this thin stick of water stick under the planks? Why so strict, so reductive? What kind of joy is this supposed to give us? What does this architecture offer to our society that traditional architecture cannot offer us?

I encourage Erlend Skjeseth to answer this.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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