House 1 by Speed Architects

House 1 is a beautiful wooden retreat on the island of Tromøy on the south coast of Norway, designed in 2021 by Speed Architects.

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House 1 is situated in Tromøy, an island on the south coast of Norway, characterized by pine forests, rocky beaches, and wild shores. The project is the first one designed by architects Eirik Mikal Stokke and Espen Robstad Heggertveit as part of their Oslo-based practice Section Plan Elevation Extrusion Diagram Architects (SPEED).

The plot is situated next to a rocky beach where the client would go swimming all year round. Large parts of the plot consist of naked rock, so the house is drawn back to avoid unnecessary excavation. The living room opens up towards the landscape and allows you to step right onto the rocky field of heather. Curving along 26 meters, the house has several nooks and pockets on each side, making sure there is always a sunny space to be found while providing shelter from strong winds.

All rooms are on the same level, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a walk-in closet, a laundry room, and a spacious hallway, as well as a continuous space containing a living room, dining room, and kitchen. A small annex houses a tiny living room, kitchen, and bathroom, as well as a loft bed. An outdoor shower and a small sauna are also connected to the annex. On warm summer days, the house opens up towards its surroundings – with direct access from each bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen – merging indoor and outdoor spaces.

The house is designed to accommodate the client’s lifestyle – living alone, but with space for children, grandchildren, and friends. The dining room thus became the most important space, with wide glass doors sliding open to either side of the house. For special occasions, a long table can stretch all the way from the kitchen to the living room, or from the dining room and through the openings on either side.

The project had a tight budget, requiring innovative ideas and a sharp focus. The building’s CLT construction ensured millimetre precision. Wooden walls are left exposed and untreated, giving the house a certain texture and rawness. This allows the client’s own furniture, artworks, and objects to take center stage. Contrasting, internal sliding doors are spray painted in bold colors at a local car workshop in shades of peach, lemon, and turquoise. Outside, cheap industrial materials are used in new ways, such as the pergola and carport, where glass fiber plates meant for cowsheds filter the sunlight; while the fence along the terrace consists of gabions filled with rock from the island – usually used as noise barriers along highways.

As fresh architects facing local building authorities, the process revolved around working within the building norm, instead pushing the basic elements of architecture to elevate the experience of the building: unusual materials, dimensions, light and shadow. Reducing floor area, focusing instead of volume, created some of the most beautiful parts of the house: the width of the corridor is reduced to just 90 cm, leaving no extra space. With a ceiling height of three meters, light coming in from high windows, and brightly colored doors, the space becomes almost like a sacred space, and the client’s favourite part of the house.

Photography by Simen Øvergaard

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- by Matt Watts