UTMARK Arkitektur: Holistic craftsmanship
By Ndéla Faye | Photos: Jacob Schroll
For Norway-based UTMARK Arkitektur, sustainability, collaboration and the conscious use of materials are at the core of their beliefs. From quirky designs (a pinecone-shaped cabin in a spruce tree, anyone? Yes, please!) to restoration projects, UTMARK embraces the future while staying true to the past.
UTMARK’s architects – Jacob Schroll, Guro Rød Alver, Ingvild Garford Bennett and Helge Samuelsen – have combined their knowledge of what true craftsmanship looks like with their goal to develop sustainable architecture that will stand the test of time. “Around 80 per cent of the buildings of the future have already been built. Our mission is not always to build new things from scratch, but to transform these existing buildings and reinvent them,” says Schroll.
As an architecture firm, they are not afraid to push boundaries, but functionality and sustainability are always at the forefront of all their designs, from housing to industrial and public buildings, urban development and transformation areas. UTMARK Arkitektur incorporates wood into its designs whenever possible, and many of the projects include extensions to existing buildings. The architects have first-hand experience of carpentry, which has further enabled them to take a hands-on approach with their projects. “In all our projects, we strive for sustainability in both material and site adaptation. A holistic approach and environmentally-friendly solutions are important in everything we do,” Schroll adds.
The intersection between old and new
UTMARK’s latest project, Konglen, is a pinecone-shaped pod that serves as an overnight cabin, suspended in a spruce tree in Bergen, Norway. The cabin is made of spruce and pine, and it can accommodate two adults and two children. “In this project, we focused on the detail and the materials. Some of the wood had to be exposed to hot steam for an hour in order for it to be soft enough to bend around the structure. As with all our projects, its longevity was an important aspect for us to consider. As time goes by, the roof shavings will be influenced by nature and will eventually blend into the surroundings,” says Schroll.
A recent collaborative project between UTMARK Arkitektur and Oslo-based architecture firm Saaha is Skomakerstuen, which was nominated for EUMiesAward in 2021. Located in mount Fløyen, Bergen, the building’s unique shape incorporates the surrounding nature in its design, and every detail has a purpose. “This project is all about creating a dynamic shape that adapts to the landscape and at the same time has a tranquil, good atmosphere.”
One of UTMARK’s specialities is incorporating their understanding of traditional construction by rethinking and repurposing old features into new and sustainable designs. They try to reuse and reinvent old designs and constantly keep their sight firmly on the future. “Our designs are not created as quick fixes; we are focused on how well the design will age, and how we can make its look and also its function relevant for years to come,” says Samuelsen.
“For us, a building’s functionality is a key aspect of the design. We might look at an old building and figure out ways in which to adapt it to current standards and requirements. It’s about finding a healthy balance between respecting the old, and using modern techniques and knowledge to add layers to that,” explains Alver.
In addition to original designs, UTMARK’s repertoire also includes a number of restoration projects. One of these is a warehouse building, Bellgården, in Bryggen, Bergen, which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The old warehouse building dates back to the 1760s. “This project is a collaboration with the company Gamle3Hus. With this particular project, we needed to bring the old building up to today’s standards without compromising on the antique qualities, which was challenging and exciting,” says Schroll.
With all its work, UTMARK Arkitektur values building a close rapport with clients and contractors. “Building a close relationship with our clients also means we are able to better understand their needs. Where possible, we also aim to collaborate directly with the craftsmen and manufacturers in our projects,” Schroll adds.
It is clear that the architects take great pride in the quality and holistic understanding of architecture, as well as construction. “Understanding all facets and details is essential to our approach to architecture,” Bennett concludes.
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