Breathtaking sea views, wild landscapes, and front-row seats to the Northern Lights await guests at the acclaimed Sea Cabins at Manshausen Island, a one-of-a-kind vacation destination that has recently expanded to include three additional glass-walled cabins and a new sauna.
Founded in June 2015 by Børge Ousland—an acclaimed Norwegian polar explorer who circumnavigated the North Pole and trekked solo across the Arctic and the Antarctic—the Sea Cabins are an environmentally sensitive getaway with seven low-impact cabins designed by Tromsø-based architect Snorre Stinessen.
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"Respect for nature and the site is fundamental to this project, and the strategy for sustainable development has also focused primarily on these fundamental principles: minimum impact, size, materials, re-use, traditional and natural principles, waste management, low energy and self-sustainability," explains Stinessen.
The new extension, completed last June, introduces three new minimalist cabins set on rocky formations on the island’s north end. Similar to four preceding Stinessen projects, the Sea Cabins are fronted with walls of glass that immerse guests in nature and are strategically placed to minimize site impact and to maximize views.
Grappling with a short building season and highly temperamental weather weren’t the only challenges Stinessen and Ousland faced. Given the fragile landscape, a very light touch is critical to preserving the area’s natural beauty.
"When approaching a project on a beautiful site such as Manshausen, it is not only the natural beauty that strikes you, but also the fragility of the nature," notes Stinessen. "In harsh climates, such as here, things take a very long time to grow. A tree will take decades and still not reach much of a height—and wounds in the moss will remain for years to come."
Built with cross-laminated timber and partly sheathed in aluminum durable enough to withstand the elements, the cabins feature double-glazed glass.
"Elements were dimensioned to enable handling by hand during assembly to avoid the need for excess use of machinery, which also would destroy the vegetation in the close surroundings," says Stinessen, who adds that triple glazing would’ve been prohibitively heavy and would have required the use of cranes. "The patches of grass and moss that were affected during construction can be held between two hands."
Each cabin accommodates up to four or five guests and includes a bathroom, kitchen with a built-in dining area, indoor and outdoor living areas, two bedrooms, and plenty of storage.
"The whole project and process has been a fantastic journey," says Stinessen, who was brought on to work on the project even before founded his practice. "My favorite parts have been the ability to work in such close interaction with the beautiful and challenging landscape, as well as the dialogue and cooperation with the client Børge Ousland."
With the second phase completed, Stinessen and Ousland will soon begin developing the third stage of their masterplan that will feature "a quite different kind of cabin," says Stinessen.
"The timing would depend mostly on Børge Ousland who right now is very busy with his Ice Legacy Project and preparations for further explorations. He is, after, all a very active explorer."
Builder/ General Contractor/Cabinetry: ConTree