A close reading of Flø - Visitor Centre & Artist Home
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An Introduction From the big towards the small, I began my diploma with an understanding of a place, Flø. A small community on the Norwegian west coast. My first meeting with the place was the summer of 2021, prior to the pre-diploma. The meeting made a memorable impression, and I wanted to know more. The culture, the nature and the atmosphere. This had to be the place of my diploma. My research question became; “How can the genius loci of a place inspire the architecture in the area of Flø?” Through my diploma I seek to understand a place through orienting and identifying its many aspects. To delve into its cultural, natural and sensuous context. During the the beginning of the diploma I went back, to rediscover and to closely read the place. I summed up my experience with 4 words, closure, exposure, intimacy and infinity. Closure The main road stretching along the islands western coast is slowly coming to an end, ending in Flø. A transition from main road to trail marked by a gate. Which also marks the beginning of the cultural landscape. What’s built is coming to an end, closed off. Closured. Exposure In front of the vastness of the Atlantic ocean a land stands opposed, naked and bare. A flat landscape in the threshold between mountain and ocean has to withstand the natural forces, both gentle and strong. Wind, rain, snow, ocean, rock fall, avalanche, storm, landslide. Exposed. Intimacy Not only exposed, the place has its intimate qualities. The few trees and vegetation scattered through the bare land, and the small forests of pine and spruce growing in the concave, by the foot of the mountain. Offering shelter against the wind and the rain, rock falls and snow. Intimate. Infinity What begins as a mountain gradually becomes even with the ocean, extending towards its vastness. Into the horizon, where the sun daily sets. A reminder of what seems like an infinite cycle. A constant reminder of time, emphasized by the landscape. Infinite. The experience was interpreted into four models and drawings, aiming to capture the essence of the 4 words. Thus, the principles of the 4 models were ressembled into one model, keeping in mind the vernacular knowledge and architecture. The result was a long wooden structure, later used as reference for the proposal. The site The site is a stone’s throw away from the gate into to the cultural heritage landscape, just past the first burial cairn, Stonghaugen. Following the trail, a small stream of water crosses, marking the entrance of the site. Along the stream, past a waterlogged patch, four rowan trees stands lone, clustered on the snow covered field. By the end of the stream is the end of the site, on the foot of the mountain, covered with fallen rocks and planted spruce. Story of a structure The current settlement of Flø, sits on a flat landscape. Not too close to the mountain, avoiding rock falls and avalanche, and not too close to the sea, in shelter for stormy winds and wild ocean. Its vernacular buildings dealt with this by adding an additional layer on the wooden structure, on the side facing the mountain. A more solid material, like the local stone. Some houses completely covered, while others covered half way. The story of a building in transition between mountain and sea unfolds, maintaining its genius loci, telling a story of the landscape. A story of gradience, from exposure to closure, light to heavy. A wood construction, light towards the sea, gradually gaining cover, by a second protective layer of stone, heavy towards the mountain. A visitor centre & an artist home Taking use of the knowledge I have gathered I introduce the program and structure to the site, a visitor centre and an artist home. From the trail, along the stream, a rock covered path leads to the building. From it, one can step onto an elevated wooden path in a light wooden structure, exposed, with no walls, covered only by a roof. By the entrance, four rowan trees greets the visitors, providing shelter from the wind in the exposed. Stepping into the visitor centre, gaining walls of pine wood planks protecting what’s inside, one can learn from the local, through the architecture, artifacts and text on nature, culture and history of Flø. The elevated wood path spans above a covered ground of fallen rock gathered from the landscape, revealing what’s underneath the cultivated surface. The lower ground between the path and posts of the construction becomes small spaces themselves, making room for the artifacts and displays. The height difference and distance between path and exhibits reminds visitors of the importance of conservation, not coming too close to the fragile heritage. In midst of the exhibition, a bench is placed in front of a window where one can view back on the cultural landscape. A pause in the gallery. Here, a transition of material takes place. From wood to stone. A homage to the vernacular, where the construction gains a protective layer of stone. Reaching the end of the visitor centre exhibition, where elevated path meets the ground, the linear gains a curvature, a gradual transition from visitor centre exhibition to artist exhibition. The artist exhibition, shows the learnings and new interpretations by artists in meeting with Flø. Contributing to maintain, renew and prolong its culture. The connection and continuation, a space where historical knowledge and new knowledge meets. The curvature makes space for a garden, where the artists may work outside or have an exterior exhibition. As well, an enclosure for the freely roaming sheep, when shelter is needed. The artist home, with space for two artists at the time, has its entrance from the artist exhibition through doubled doors, into the artists workspace. An atelier facing the garden. The atelier extends into the kitchen if more space is needed, or closed off for focused work. Further in, three steps up, into the more private, a bathroom. Yet, three steps up, into the most private, a space for rest. From here, one can perceive the rock wall enfolding the dwelling, throughout the garden, leading way out along the stream, facing towards the sea. The result of the research question became a building intending to tell a story of a place. A story of a landscape, from lightness towards heaviness, from exposed towards enclosed. A story of a building, from public to private, from historic knowledge to new understanding.