A space for solitude : Fordypningsrommet
Words: Barry Stone
Images: Courtesy of New Holland Publishers
Fleinvær is an archipelago of around 360 islands and islets in the Nordland region of northern Norway, not so far removed from the mainland as to be considered remote, but far enough that one needs determination to get there. The archipelago’s larger islands are serviced twice a day by passenger ferries out of the mainland city of Bodø, and there is a permanent population of around 30, most of which live on six main islands. A very few islands are so close to one another that they’re connected by wooden footbridges, though most are removed enough that boats are needed. There are no cars or shops here, and about 50 houses in total, many of which are only occupied during the summer months when the population of both residents and visitors can see numbers soar. Though to say ‘soar’ may give a false impression. There are only so many beds on Fleinvær, and until recently not too many of them have been made available to tourists. Ever. They sit idle in private homes waiting for the promise of spring and an upward movement in the thermometer, when families return for the summer as they always have. The channels begin to fill with boats again, and old acquaintances are renewed. And that’s the way life has been here for generations.
In the last few years however, a new ingredient has been added to the Fleinvær recipe. A new aesthetic has arrived, a fresh approach to coastal living and a bold new foray into the world of cutting edge minimalist architecture. Not at all the sort of thing you’d expect to see take root in the midst of a simple and contented community such as this. But why not? People have been living in the Fleinvær archipelago for over 5,000 years, and for most of that time had to make do with some pretty minimal forms of shelter. Perhaps what Håvard Lund has done here isn’t so out of place after all?
Håvard Lund is a Norwegian jazz musician who specializes in four things: playing the clarinet and the saxophone, composing, and dreaming. He is adept at all four. The first three he has been doing for much of his adult life, but the last only came to fruition in 2016. Lund has been the driving force behind the design and construction of a series of huts and ‘sleeping boxes’ along the northern shoreline of Fleinvær’s second most heavily populated island.
It all began in 2004 when he purchased an ‘estate’, a parcel of land that nobody else on the island wanted, he joked. ‘I’m sure they all thought “Ahhh, the fool, he bought it!”’ he told me as we walked to the 39 m summit of Fleinvær’s only real hill. And while 39 m might not sound like much, when you have the sort of scenery you do here, with the mountains of the Norwegian mainland in one direction, the beautiful arc of the Lofoten peninsula to the north, and the low-lying hillocks of the islands of Fleinvær with its carpets of juniper shrubs and arctic tundra scattered all about you, 39 m can unveil an exquisite panorama.
In 2014, with the help of an enthusiastic bunch of architecture students from the University of Trondheim and led by the Australian architect Andrew Devine, a series of mono-functional houses began to be built here. They were clad in hand-cut shingles of Kebony wood, a versatile wood with a lovely, dappled silver-grey patina that would develop over time to be in complete harmony with its austere surroundings. Lund decided to call his new creation Fordypningsrommet, a Norwegian word for ‘room for deeper studies’. His aim is to encourage people to come to ‘Fordy’ and pursue individual journeys of rediscovery amid the suspended timescale of these glacially carved islands.
“He decided to call his new creation Fordypningsrommet, a Norwegian word for ‘room for deeper studies’.”
There is a kitchen, a large study/common room, and a sauna and bath house that are perfect preparation for that bracing Arctic swim. Meandering up the site from the water’s edge are a series of sleeping boxes, which are seriously narrow – enough for a bed and not much else – and several meters tall, a potentially troublesome combination in a wind-prone location. In fact, the winds blow here so strongly in the ‘wild’ months of November and December that they’d be in danger of blowing over were it not for their bolted concrete footings and their stainless steel cabling, attached to the frame of every box and anchored to the surrounding coastal sandstone.
Everywhere you walk here there is the smell of salt in the air, and overlooking it all is the spectacular Sami-inspired Njalla, a hut raised up on a 4m column that echoes the traditional Sami storage huts set atop a greased pole, made slippery to keep reindeer meat and fish safe from predators. Reimagined here to create a rare place of solitude and contemplation, if you’re lucky you can trace the flight paths of sea eagles, cast your eyes over the jagged peaks of the Lofoten islands, or admire the beauty of an approaching arctic storm, coming to once again buffet Fordy’s sleeping boxes, which must seem like purpose-built targets, designed to dare Mother Nature to do her worst. And are at their coziest when she does.