A Stepped Roof Primes This Cozy Norwegian Cabin for Next-Level Fun

A Stepped Roof Primes This Cozy Norwegian Cabin for Next-Level Fun

By Lucy Wang
On the edge of Norway’s largest national park, a family’s cozy holiday escape cleverly pays homage to the sublime landscape.

A multigenerational Oslo-based family were squeezed for space in their traditional 1980s log cabin near Hardangervidda National Park—so they tapped Gartnerfuglen Arkitekter to design an extension that would better accommodate holiday get-togethers and provide a closer connection to nature.

Located about 3,280 feet above sea level, Thunder Top rises like a hill in a moorland of weather-beaten dwarf birches and heathers. Wild reindeer herds and grazing sheep can often be seen dotting the landscape.

Rather than simply mirror the original building, the architects crafted a contemporary timber-clad dwelling with a dramatic stepped roof that looks like an extension of the landscape and provides an architectural contrast to the log cabin.

The new extension is connected to the original log cabin with a glass hallway that contains a wardrobe and utility sink. "The connection to the existing cabin was a bit tricky, as the height under the old roof eaves is very low," explain the architects. "Because of this, the roof construction in the part connecting the old and the new part had to be very thin, and we decided to go for an all-glass roof. This gives the connection very special qualities with lots of daylight."

The shape and orientation of the extension prevents snow from piling up on the south-facing outdoor terrace.

"A big part of the Norwegian lifestyle is going hiking in the mountains, and a natural destination is the peak," say the architects. "For the extension to really become part of the landscape we wanted to also make it possible to reach the ‘peak’ of the building. We like the thought of creating spaces where you wouldn’t expect; the stepped roof adds an additional ‘layer of space’ to the building."

Thirty steps connect the ground with the top of the roof, which provides panoramic views of the lake and the plains of Hardangervidda.

The cabin is "an inhabitable beacon, a man-made peak in the rolling fells of Hardangervidda, worn down by glaciers during the ice age," say the architects.

Inspired by Sondre Norheim—the father of modern skiing, who was known for using roofs as ski jumps—the nearly 20-foot-tall roof doubles as a launchpad for activities in winter, when the snow often piles up five feet.

"In winter, the kids in the family spend all day outside playing in the snow," note the architects. "Skiing on—and jumping from—the roof is a fun challenge for the daredevils."

The facade is clad in highly durable, untreated ore pine. The timber cladding will develop a silvery patina over time helping the building blend into the landscape.

The doorframes are painted with the color palette used by the Norwegian Trekking Association for marking trekking routes.

As with the stepped roof, the interior also lifts inspiration from the outdoor landscape with its minimalist and open-plan design that encourages continuous evolution. 

The birch plywood–lined interior mimics traditional open-hearth cottages with an open-plan layout that functions as a large family room, punctuated with small, cozy nooks. A small wood stove quickly heats up the space.

"The interiors are to be used as a ‘landscape,’ anonymous and without guidance. The exposed columns can be used to hang art, shelves, and furniture—such as horizontal steel poles for drying paintings or hanging newspapers and magazines—whatever is convenient there and then," explain the architects. "It is not a room where one art piece stays in the same position for decades."

Stairs lead up to the mezzanine level, which can also be accessed from the outdoors.

This strategically placed window with an operable opening frames views of the landscape.

The "practically maintenance-free" window frames are built of untreated heartwood.

"Our intention is that the minimalism will encourage life to be lived spontaneously, and that this lived life will give the interior more and more character over time."

"The big glass panes make the extension very light and spacious, contrasting with the old cottage," say the architects.

"Our favorite parts of the project are all the small nooks where you can find your own personal space," note the architects. "These spaces are also connected to the main space, so everyone can be ‘alone and together’ at the same time."

In winter, snow can pile up to five feet.

Thundertop Cabin plan

Thundertop Cabin section

Thundertop Cabin section

Related Reading:

A Gigantic Staircase Sweeps Through the Heart of This Tokyo Home

This Exquisite Extension With a Zigzag Roof Was Made Possible by Neighborly Collaboration

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Gartnerfuglen Arkitekter / @gartnerfuglen_arkitekter 

Builder/ General Contractor: Telemark Miljøbygg

Structural Engineer: Gartnerfuglen Arkitekter

Cabinetry Design/ Installation: Eivind Kleppo

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