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The wonderful facade that gives this 144-square-metre mountaintop cabin its exceptional character — and its name — derives from the humblest of origins: Norwegian farm fences. Skigard refers to a traditional rural barrier made of wood members arranged diagonally; in this hytte, or cottage, architecture firm Mork-Ulnes used the technique to clad the 45 wooden columns supporting the horizontal volume.

While they mask the building within its glorious rugged landscape, the three-metre-long quarter-cut logs also create a surprising opposite effect: When covered by snow, they highlight the cabin in beautiful relief against an all-white backdrop.

The roughness of the facade is balanced by the smoothness of the interior. Divided along its length into four main spaces by a central corridor, the entire home is covered in solid pine. This monochromatic boldness is amplified by the majestic square frustum ceiling soaring toward a skylight above each space.

“One of the most striking examples of a sculptural connection to site; the external material invention is complemented by the warm wood inside.”
Marion Weiss, AZ Awards juror

The operatic link to the outdoors is paramount: Each of the three bedrooms as well as the private guest suite boast a view of the Gudbrandsdalen Valley, while the main living space features two six-metre-wide glass walls — one on either side — to augment the sensation of being enveloped by nature. A cubic void carved into the building provides a covered outdoor space that places occupants face to face with the sublime environment.

While it seems a daring innovation, the home is very much a modern ode to the vernacular and eco-intelligent rural building typologies of Norway. The architects looked to precedents like the stabbur, or farm storehouse, to inform how the building should be raised 1.5 metres above the ground, a decision that would protect the bedrock below it and allow sheep to graze under the building during summer months (the prefab cross-laminated timber columns are connected to steel posts).

The adherence to local wisdom also applies to materiality. This is a residence hewn almost entirely from wood, both locally sourced timber and forestry byproducts.

In fact, the architects revel in how few “non-wood” materials they included. “The building’s insulation, door and window frames, exterior cladding, wall panelling, furniture, shower walls and floors, toilet flush plates, ventilation plates and even refrigerator handles were [all] crafted of Norwegian wood,” they note.

Location Kvitfjell, Norway Firm Mork-Ulnes Architects (San Francisco, U.S.) Team Casper Mork-Ulnes and Lexie Mork-Ulnes with Auste Cijunelyte, Kristina Line, Phi Van Phan, Inez Tazi, Rune Strønes (Strønes Snekkerverksted) and Meho Sortland (Hafjell Bygg)

AZ Awards 2020 Winner: Skigard Hytte

In Architecture: Single-Family Houses, this idyllic mountaintop residence by Mork-Ulnes Architects combines the rustic and the refined.

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