Tverrfjellhytta: Snøhetta’s Striking Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion in Hjerkinn

Samuel Nguma
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Forming a barrier between the northern and southern parts of Norway is Dovrefjell – a scenic mountain range that holds an indispensable place in Norwegian consciousness. It is here, at Hjerkinn, located within the outskirts of the Dovrefjell National Park; that Snøhetta was commissioned by the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Foundation, to design a visitor pavilion known as Tverrfjellhytta. The 90 sqm rectilinear structure is staged at the tail end of a 1.5 km nature trail that brings visitors to this picturesque site, approximately 1200 meters above sea level.

© Hufton + Crow

Dovrefjell is home to Europe’s endangered reindeer herds, musk oxen, artic foxes and indigenous flora that are rife in the lush scenery. The natural landscape is intertwined with a rich history of wanderers, hunting, mining and even military activities that have been etched indelibly on the environs. In fact, a slew of national legends, mythological tales, poetry and music draw their inspiration from this mountain massif; engendering its mystical and eternal qualities. The founding fathers of the Norwegian constitution are said to be “agreed and faithful, until the fall of Dovre!”

© Hufton + Crow

The natural landscape is intertwined with a rich history of wanderers, hunting, mining and even military activities that have been etched indelibly on the environs

© Hufton + Crow

Snøhetta drew from these overlapping natural, cultural and mythical storylines to conceive Tverrfjellhytta. The building is composed of a rigid outer shell and a soft organic inner core. The rustic and raw steel exterior is reminiscent of the surrounding rugged terrain; whilst the warm interior mimics rock and ice formations that have been eroded by natural phenomena. It is this apparent contrast that enables the pavilion to be externally modest; but internally warm and inviting.

© Hufton + Crow

This beautiful juxtaposition sets the stage for visiting students and tourists to imbibe the unique wildlife and rich history of Dovrefjell. Upon arrival, one is greeted by an organic wooden ensemble that morphs to create surfaces for one to lean, recline and sit. The entrance is encased within this wooden elevation in a way that feels natural. The wooden interior contours sinuously to provide seating areas for visitors; while a singular fireplace fixture, acts both as an ornamental and functional compliment to the space. Once seated, one is able to appreciate a panorama of endless landscape; thanks to a floor-to-ceiling window that spans the entire length of the pavilion.

© Hufton + Crow

In Tverrfjellhytta, Snøhetta displays a commendable grasp of construction technology, with particular emphasis being placed on the quality and durability of the building materials. There seems to have been a deliberate marriage of local building traditions with advanced technologies to produce a contemporary building that still remains impressively grounded in its context. For instance, the fluid forms of the interior were fabricated from 10-inch square pine timber beams sculpted using the milling machines of Norwegian shipbuilders; running on cutting-edge digital 3D models. But these wooden beams were then fastened together with wooden pegs only – a traditional method of construction. It is this kind of sensitivity, even in projects of this scale, that sets great architectural practices like Snøhetta clear above the fray – delivering architecture that goes beyond being merely iconic to realms of meaningfulness.

Project Information
Architects: Snøhetta
Location: Hjerkinn, Dovre, Norway
Client: Norwegian Wild Reindeer Foundation
Partner-in-Charge: Kjetil T. Thorsen
Project Lead: Knut Bjørgum
Project Team: Erik Brett Jacobsen, Margit Tidemand Ruud, Rune Grasdal, Martin Brunner, Heidi Pettersvold Structural: Dr.Techn. Kristoffer Apeland AS, Trond Gundersen
Interior & Landscape: Snøhetta Oslo AS
Main Contractor: Prebygg AS
Area: 90 sqm
Cost: USD 500 000
Status: Completed, 2011
Photographs: Hufton + Crow, Snøhetta

Samuel Nguma

About the author

Samuel Nguma

Samuel Nguma is an Editor for Archute. He enjoys taking long walks and reading short stories. He is an ardent lover of architecture which he studied at the University of Nairobi.