Boathouse – Koreo Architects and Kolab Architects – Norway

Scenographic boathouse in Vikebygd – Joakim Skajaa (NO) – Photography: Mattias Josefsson

Koreo Architects is a side project of Erlend Aalmo Strønstad and Agathe Monnet While. They practice full-time at two established offices in Oslo on a daily basis. Together with Kolab Architects, a three-person office engaged in a wide range of activities such as exhibitions, competitions, and teaching, they transformed an old boathouse into a fully equipped holiday home. Anna Andrea Vik Aniksdal of Kolab and Erlend Aalmo Strønstad of Koreo discuss the project.

The old boathouse needed renovation, as both the cladding and wood construction was dilapidated. It was also a possibility to add a few square meters to it. Erlend: ‘Initially, we tried to keep more of the existing boathouse. In the end, it was mostly replaced, but it is still standing on the old foundations. We raised the roof line to add some new openings, and extended it with a winter garden on the back end.’ The family that owns the boathouse have a summerhouse nearby where they spend weekends and vacations.’ Anna: ‘Its a very social place, and they host dinners, parties, and lots of other events when they are there. So the existing boathouse was already an important place for the family and their friends. We wanted the boathouse to look sober from a distance and fit in with the other boathouses in the harbour, and as it ages it will fit in even better.’

By day, the windows in the roof are well blended in with the facade, but at night they light up the facade and give the house a special character. The back part of the house has an open cladding with slanted boards that let light through, while the front part is closed. The front part has large elements that can be opened and closed to allow for activities and events both inside and outside. The whole house opens up for events during the summer days, and closes down for the winter season when it is not in use. It relates to its surroundings and blends in, but it also has a different use that is given an expression.

Erlend: ‘We believe that it is important to work with the qualities in the existing situation – then we can be restrained in the expression of the new building. This is an attitude that builds upon our background from the architecture schools in Bergen and Versailles. We worked a lot on finding qualities around the house and adapt to them. From the view towards the harbour to the deck outside, where they arrange dinners, and the light through the forest in the back – the house responds to these qualities in specific ways.’ Anna: ‘The cross-disciplinary approach is very important for us in Kolab. We call it the trans-artistic approach, as many of us had some sort of artistic background that we wanted to bring with us into the architectural practice. We did not want art to become just a hobby, so in addition to architecture we work with scenography, art, graphic design, and other artistic projects. We collaborate with the others here in the workspace and outsiders like Erlend and Agathe. We learn so much from collaborations and sharing of knowledge. I learned a great deal from our collaboration during this project.’

The architects promote an open process and define a project that everybody wants to build. In this project, there was a close collaboration with a very engaged client and carpenter. Erlend: ‘Its always interesting to include others in the development phase of the project – as many people and opinions as possible to influence the direction of the project. Agathe and I started to work together to develop an approach that engages with local actors and experiments with building traditions. That is a way of working that we want to keep for the future.’