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The Interplay of Architecture and its Context

A portrait of Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

The artistic value of simplicity

Individual rooms are distributed throughout the various arms of the building, which are not only joined together physically, but also form one visual unit on account of a continuous façade design and the materials used. Almost unlike any other at that time, Alvar Aalto drew inspiration and creative force from the context, and not only in his home of Finland. Further west is a country whose idiosyncrasy and beauty is a similarly deep source of inspiration for regional construction methods. The Norwegian company Reiulf Ramstad Architekter has already produced countless examples of how rural or urban contexts can shape a company's work and determine the built form. The Oslo-based office, which was recently awarded »Firm of the Year« at the Architizer A+ Awards, has accomplished many projects in the course of its 20-year existence which are borne from an almost symbolic simplicity. Underlying every design and project is a deep-seated engagement with the location where the building will eventually be rooted. For Reiulf Ramstad, form cannot just be made; it is rather an interplay of individual details and design factors. The architect has to assemble all the parts so that the finished product is perceived as a whole. The Split View Mountain Lodge from 2013, located in the south Norwegian province of Buskerud, is a perfect example of the strong interaction between location and architecture. The holiday home of wooden construction consists of several irregularly arranged structures, which fit the height and orientation of the terrain.

The glazed façades of the individual building structures display an archetypal shape.

A similar design principle was followed with the Micro Cluster Cabins, built in 2014, which lie west of the Oslofjord. The privately-owned lodges were constructed as a group of buildings, whose common element is the outside space. Micro Cluster Cabins: The partly fully-glazed façades allow a glimpse inside and through to the bordering rocky outcrop behind the building. An example of complex building functionality in action in an urban context is the Stjørdal cultural centre, which is currently under construction. As well as a church, it accommodates a number of recreational facilities which are intended to create a lively meeting place within the small Norwegian town. A theatre, cinema, library, dance studio, cafe and youth centre are all part of this multifaceted, transparent and inviting building which is encased by numerous glass profiles. Once again this is the result of an intensive engagement with the history and culture of its location. Just as Alvar Aalto and other advocates of critical regionalism wanted to create a deliberate contrast to location-independent, universal architecture with their buildings, so is the body of work of Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter a rejection of standardisation. Their portfolio shows the more modest but nevertheless memorable ways in which surroundings can determine architecture.