Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Aurlandsvangen in Aurland, Norway by SAUNDERS ARCHITECTURE
January 30th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: SAUNDERS ARCHITECTURE
This large, multi-functional structure is located on the waterfront in Aurland, down the valley from the Aurland Lookout on a site that overlooks the expanse of the Aurland Fjord, a World Heritage Site. The brief was for a competence center for the local environmental think tank, including business and conference space, publicly accessible areas, as well as an exhibition area for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As a result, Saunders’ building represents a departure from the residential scale that had hitherto been the focus of the office, especially with regards to the extremely varied program.
The resulting design has been governed by five key elements, beginning with the need to give something back to the local community. The building had to be wooden yet also anchored in contemporary architecture; it had to relate closely to the local architectural style; it had to contain inspirational office spaces; and it had to be a welcoming public space. To this end it is not just a standalone building, but an object that knits the community together.
As part of the design, a nearby traffic roundabout will be removed and replaced with a new park and promenade. In addition, the building plays with the notion of a “fifth facade,” with a fully accessible roof that doubles as an extension of the public realm. Saunders traces his interest in functional roofspaces back to a visit to Agra, India, where the multi-functional domestic roof acts as “a whole new surface for the town.” The three-story Center is clad in wood, with staircases “cut” into the plank-clad roof slope to form a path that is threaded up from ground level to a terrace. This path lifts and turns as one ascends, culminating in a rooftop landscape that places one at the heart of the wider landscape (and even reveals the Aurland Lookout in the far distance).
Self-consciously designed without “an ugly side,” the Center must address the water’s edge as well as the row of traditional fishermen’s houses that make up the water frontage. It is intended as a piece of large-scale sculpture perched on the edge of this very small town. The surrounding park helps integrate the design even further, with a set of small-scale jetties reaching out over the water to provide spots where fishermen can catch the rich mix of sea trout and salmon common in these waters.
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