Based in southern Norway, the small architectural team behind Ark-Tellus creates not only living spaces, but homes. Focusing on personalisation, quality and cooperation, the company designs modern homes that help to preserve, and glide seamlessly into, the surrounding natural landscapes.

Ark-Tellus was founded in 2011 by architects Eivind Hanch-Hansen and Sverre Aaker Sondresen. Since its establishment, Ark-Tellus’ team has grown from the duo to a small architectural family. Including Vera, the lump of joy of an office dog, there are now six employees.

Ark-Tellus: Making contemporary design personal and sustainable

Ekelunden bedroom. Photo: Espen Grønli

Personalised designs and sustainability

With the exception of a few larger housing projects, Ark-Tellus mostly works with smaller home or cabin designs for private, individual clients. As a result of this, they value and prioritise personalisation in their work.

“We discuss each new assignment as if we have at least two clients. One is the family with their own personality, needs and dreams, while the other is the plot itself with its own character and unique potential. Our mission is to listen to both,” Sondresen explains.

In addition to personalisation, the Ark-Tellus team places great emphasis on preserving the surrounding landscape in which they build. “When we do our work, we try to ensure that as little as possible affects the surrounding nature, while also contributing to a modern architectural language for our time,” Sondresen says. “In many ways, we try to make our designs coexist with the landscape, creating homes that almost glide into it in an effortless way. This can be done through a gentle approach to existing terrain and a conscious use of materials.”

Sondresen explains that the conservation of surrounding nature is a part of Ark-Tellus’ mission to be more sustainable in their work. “There are many aspects to consider for an architectural firm when trying to promote sustainability. Every little detail matters, from natural ventilation to picking long-lasting materials. We try to discourage plastic use in our designs, focusing on greener alternatives,” he says.

He adds that sustainability is a concept that is constantly discussed among the Ark-Tellus team in order to create understanding on a personal level. “In our projects, sustainability is mainly about building something that lasts, respecting the situation and landscape we are a part of, employing a local understanding of resources and an awareness of what we leave behind for future generations,” Sondresen says.

Ark-Tellus: Making contemporary design personal and sustainable

Ekelunden, exterior. Photo: Espen Grønli

Building modern homes, while retaining history

As a part of their effort to minimise their ecological footprint and to retain the value of both landscape and history, Ark-Tellus only make alterations where necessary. An example of this is a project they did for a family home in Ekelunden, where the original building is a small house from the late 19th century.

“To retain its old charm while producing something modern and new for the family, we decided on a contrasting extension that also pays homage to the old and its surrounding nature.” The home’s design takes inspiration from the forest, the plot’s oak trees and the area’s lovely, stone-filled landscape. It is modern and contemporary without damaging the history of the home and avoids clashing with the ancient nature around it.

Ark-Tellus: Making contemporary design personal and sustainable

Ospedalsholmen interior. Photo: Margaret de Lange

A quiet place in the archipelago

On an islet outside Risør, the office has made a cabin framing an outdoor atrium that provides shelter and also acts as an activity space. Facing west, the cabin has a balustrade with moveable sunscreens made of wood, which provides a changeable play of light and privacy.

Instagram: @arktellus
Facebook: Ark-Tellus

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