Secluded yet open. Just a stone’s throw away from the ocean and situated amidst a plethora of summer houses and cottages, Irene Sævik’s zen-like summer retreat manages the impossible: a private and peaceful ambience only forty minutes outside of the busy capitol of Oslo and a mere three minute walk from the shores of the Oslo fjord.
The house is a renovation and expansion of a smaller-scale cabin built by seminal modernist painter Irma Sahlo Jæger in 1963. Architect Irene Sævik picked up on the original building’s asceticism—as well as its sober Nordic modernist ethos—and upgraded it to a contemporary contemplative hideout. Drawing from Japanese architecture, the yard is surrounded by a slender gallery enabling one to freely circulate—and enter—between the adjacent rooms. The living room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom, sauna, restroom, study and two bedrooms all follow one another.
Most rooms include large windows stretching from wall to wall and floor to roof. In the wild terrain the effect of the transparent walls is striking: one is at once dwelling within the architecture and in nature. The border between inside and outside is continuously blurred. Each room is constructed as a separate box, and these are connected through the roofing and the external gallery. Furthermore, each room faces both the inner yard—the micro-landscape—as well as the outer surroundings—the macro-landscape—creating a sensation of complete integration with nature within a minimalist and solid fortress of sorts. Due to the rooms being separate the retreat can harbor a larger number of people and yet allow for quiet activities such as writing, reading, painting, as well as listening to music, preparing foods in the spacious kitchen, and conversing.
A large terrace is ideal for soaking in the sun and the view encompassing both treetops and the fjord arms surrounding the narrow peninsula. The yard itself is minimally cultivated and retains the original topography. Bamboos, plants, herbs, fruit trees, flowers—as well as rounded rocks from the beach—have been added, but the yard is to be experienced from the gallery, inviting contemplation, not demanding physical interaction. The clean geometry of the structures (designed with the principles of subtraction rather than addition), the series of adjoined and disjoined rooms, and the revolving ambiences of the inner yard and the outer nature work together to evoke a singular and rich experience of calm, well-being and thoughtfulness. A traditional Norwegian summer retreat metamorphosed into a vivid, yet contemplative, architectonic space.