Blending into Norway's fjords through reflections
Three award-winning apartment buildings stand proudly atop Rundeskogen hill, which connects the cities of Sandnes, Stavanger and Sola. The towers on the west coast of Norway afford breathtaking views of wide-open plains, dense forests and the Gandsfjorden fjord. The highest tower has 15 stories, the other two have nine. Together, the towers contain 113 units. The buildings stand out amongst the surrounding low-rise residential complexes and warehouses. However, through a combination of innovative forms and materials, the towers also blend in perfectly and offer a sense of openness and space. This effect is enhanced by coloured façades that reflect the region’s typical natural light and connect the buildings to nearby residential areas and woodlands.
Playing with natural light
Architects Helen & Hard, Stavanger, and dRMM, London, were responsible for the distinctive design. Materials chosen for the building exterior had to help achieve the key goal of integrating the buildings into their surroundings. The low northern light playing of the building offered a unique opportunity to make the structures visually attractive, whilst helping them blend in. Trespa® Meteon® panels were essential to creating this effect, like the way sunlight plays off of leaves.
dRMM and Helen & Hard had considered an all-timber structure. However, at the request of the client, they opted for a hybrid construction with a concrete core and floors and timber frames in the walls. The buildings’ octagonal shape maximises natural lighting and views. “Each decision aimed to ensuring the design would fit into the overall context of the area and prevent blocking views,” explains Siv Helene Stangeland, partner and principal architect at Helen & Hard. “As you walk around the site, the beautiful, low northern light gradually shifts around the façades, thanks to the Trespa® Meteon® panels.”
For the façades, Alex de Rijke, architect and director of dRMM, considered a variety of materials. He particularly liked the three-dimensional effect created by the use of durable Trespa® Meteon® Metallics at the ‘Golden House’ building in Houten, The Netherlands. Trespa® Meteon® Metallics emphasize the material’s premium appearance, introducing subtle differences between panels installed at different angles. To determine whether a similar solution might be suitable for the Rundeskogen project, de Rijke visited Trespa International’s headquarters in Weert, The Netherlands. Here, a 4x4 metre mock-up was constructed. This ‘life size’ model gave the architects, construction firm, distributor and client a realistic impression of what the façade would look like. By playing with geometrical shapes and moving the surfaces the Metallic panels, it became possible to determine the material’s effects and how these would translate to a larger structure. Three Metallics ‘Rock’ decors were selected in Copper Yellow, Amber and Mustard Yellow, matching the hues typical of different seasons. Each building was designed to represent a specific period of the year and is clad with one of these complementary tonalities, following an intricate pattern that incorporates carefully arranged triangular panels.
A sense of space and wonder
The initial idea was to build a single eight-storey block. “However, we felt having one vast wall would be wrong for the quality of this space,” says Siv Helene Stangeland. “Additionally, owing to its proximity to a Viking burial site, the density of the design had to be restricted.” The architects decided to have three buildings and lift the first floors to minimise their footprint and allow fjord views for the adjacent houses. “When you visit the site, the first thing that strikes you is the raised platform, which creates a sense of space and wonder,” says Siv Helene Stangeland. “The other striking thing is the colourfulness of the buildings.”
“The architects drew each individual piece of the first tower’s façade,” recalls Gaute Hoff, Sales Manager Building of VINK Norway, Trespa’s local distributor and the company responsible for optimising the machining of the panels. “We needed to cut the triangular shapes from the rectangular Trespa® sheets in a way that would minimize machining loss.” VINK’s team carefully labelled every single piece and delivered the sections in a very precise order, in line with requirements.
Although single-family houses and small-scale housing projects are prevalent in the region, the height and volume of the Rundeskogen towers haven’t ruined the area’s spaciousness and views. Completed between 2012 and 2013, the towers have received numerous awards and recognitions, including an honourable mention at the 2014 Norwegian Award for building design and Architizer’s 2015 A+ Award Jury (Winner in residential multi-housing/high-rise category.)