SODDATJØRN – Imagine a bunch of hikers have decided on a place in the wilderness to stay for the night; they set up camp in a cluster and form a central area to socialise and keep warm around a campfire. Koko Architects, a firm based out of Estonia and Norway, has designed a slightly more permanent variation – though with a similar arrangement.
The permanence that Koko Architects has endowed on the gathering of buildings is necessary due to the harsh climatic conditions of the physical context. Set on the shores of Soddatjørn lake near one of Norway’s fjords, the site is far from roads making it difficult to reach. The architectural firm’s approach was to clad each building in rolled zinc to protect from the unforgiving weather and to avoid the need for regular maintenance. The interiors of the cabins are mainly finished in timber, which gives a warm feeling in the cool climate.
While it seems easy to draw a relation to the arrangement of a camp site, these buildings aren’t small and separated like tents due to the architect’s whim. They are small because of a size restriction and due to helicopter limitations when transporting. Camping is a very social activity, and the planning has a positive outcome to this degree. People are forced to go outside for necessities; cleaning, cooking and to relieve themselves in one way or another. This generally enforces a nucleus where people share fires for warmth and the preparation of food; the architect responds by inserting a social hub to the planning of the community.
The shared space has a kitchen, living area and sleeping spaces to accommodate 30–35 hikers, with the smaller cabins sleep a handful of people. All services are off-grid; water supply is from the lake, gas is used for cooking, solar panels generate electricity for lighting, and the washroom and sauna are located directly over a mountain stream. The separation of the cabins allows the connection of people with each other and directly with their surrounding environment. The cabins are equipped with one fully glazed edge, offering panoramic views to the hermits amongst us who want to stay indoors.