Norwegian modernist Sverre Fehn was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1997, and what was that eminent architect’s first post-Pritzker commission? An outhouse.
Thankfully it was, or would come to be, an outhouse very dear to the man, a pitched parking lot potty at his Norwegian Glacier Museum a couple miles from the stunning, and rapidly melting, Bøybreen Glacier near Fjærland, Norway. This rustic little country commode evokes both the local building traditions and the surrounding mountains (see the glacier just to the right of the peak) with a tongue-in-cheek nod to the grander, if uneven, museum nearby.
The spine of the building is marked by slate shingles and a steep slope, suggesting at once a serpent, a Viking ship, and the local pre-Christian tradition—one revived in a particularly nostalgic patch of the 19th century, some 800 years after the Viking King Olaf’s decidedly cutthroat Christianizing of Norway—of placing dragon heads at the peaks of gables and running looping woodwork between them as the monsters’ bodies. Ferre opted instead for long banks of clerestory windows that permeate the too-cluttered, caveman-obsessed interior with natural light.
The main hall of the museum is low and boxy with a clear, if unintended, affinity for fallout shelters, but the real misstep comes at the crash-landed flying saucer of a theater that attaches to the main hall. The panoramic screen inside makes a stellar impression, but the exterior of the space feels like it belongs to another building, another fallout shelter perhaps, but one last seen on the ice planet Hoth, a glacier of a wholly other stripe.