Two young Norwegian architects, Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhelmsen, set out to prove themselves to the world by building a sustainable and experimental retreat. Using the last of their savings in the early 2000s, they bought a plot of land in Hardanger, on the edge of one of Norway’s most dramatic fjords. With great respect for the surrounding landscape, the duo, along with carpenter Mats Odin Rustøy, built a minimalistic and off-grid retreat using felled wood from their land.
Hardanger Retreat is a simple 15 sq meter room composed of glass and wood attached to a long open deck. Trees, felled on site to make way for the building, were conserved and milled to create planks to build both the room and the deck. Large glass windows provide stunning views of the fjord below and the structure is insulated with recycled newspaper. The small retreat uses no electricity and is not connected to the grid. Instead, natural gas is used for cooking and heating. As the retreat will be used mostly during the summer months, when there is only around 4 hours of darkness, no lights were installed and if lighting is needed, candles are used.
Originally, Saunders and Wilhelmsen intended to build a second building attached to the deck, which would hold a kitchen, common room, bathroom and another bedroom, but it seems that it has not yet been constructed. The purpose of the summer retreat was two-fold. Obviously the duo wanted a rad place to hang out in the summer, but they also wanted to use it for their portfolio and show off their talents. And show off they did. Seven years later, the firm, now called Saunders Architecture, has completed a number of stunning residential projects.
Images ©Bent René Synnevåg