Villa Austevoll / Saunders Architecture

Architects: Saunders Architecture
Area: 285 m²
Year: 2020
Photography: Ivar Kvaal
Team Architects: Todd Saunders with Pedro Léger Pereira and Attila Béres
Interior Designer: Saunders Architecture
Structural Engineer: Erling Olsen – Konstruksjonsteknikk AS
Builders: Blænes Bygg, GG Möbel AS
City: Austevoll
Country: Norway

The design of Villa Austevoll, nestled on the rugged island of Selbjørn in Norway, embodies a profound engagement with its harsh coastal environment. Architect Todd Saunders, celebrated for his nuanced approach to northern landscapes, crafts a structure that merges shelter with observatory functions, enabling year-round engagement with the natural surroundings. This 285 m² retreat, developed for a family with deep ties to the island, leverages minimalistic design and sustainable materials to achieve a low-impact presence. Saunders’ architectural response addresses both climatic challenges and the client’s desire for a modern, sculptural home that harmonizes with its picturesque setting.

Villa austevoll / saunders architecture

Given the harsh northern climate of Norway, particularly the coastal conditions, the concept of ‘shelter’ holds significant importance. Villa Austevoll faced the challenge of providing refuge from the extreme winter conditions, the prevailing northern winds, and frequent rainfall, while also maximizing the enjoyment of the striking coastal landscape throughout the year.

Villa austevoll / saunders architecture

The retreat is located on Selbjørn Island, part of a scenic archipelago south of Bergen. The area, accessible only by boat and ferry, has familial connections for the clients, Gundersen and Fagerbakke, who chose this location to build a new retreat for themselves and their adult children. The couple engaged Todd Saunders for his unique architectural vision, desiring a cabin that would serve both as a shelter and a viewpoint to appreciate the surrounding beauty. Gundersen, who had previously built their main home in Bergen, took inspiration from Saunders’ projects on Fogo Island, noticing the environmental and climatic similarities between Newfoundland and Norway.

Villa austevoll / saunders architecture

Saunders’ design approach for Villa Austevoll emphasizes minimal environmental impact. The retreat is elevated above the landscape to protect it while maximizing views from its hillside position. The structure features a cross-like form atop a triangular, concrete plinth that recedes into the hillside, allowing the house to appear as if floating. This design includes slim steel pillars that support the white timber and glass structure above.

The interior layout promotes a seamless flow between indoor and outdoor spaces. At the heart of the home, a spiral staircase crafted from oak ascends from the darker entrance area to a light-filled living space, designed along an axial line that extends from north to south. The layout includes a living room with a library, a dining area with a galley kitchen, and terraces that extend from each space. The bedrooms also connect to terraces, offering diverse vistas. Strategic modifications to the structure’s geometry respond to wind patterns and enhance sight lines, softening the overall form with angular elements.

Constructed with attention to detail and family needs, the house blends simplicity with durability, considering the coastal conditions and its hillside setting. The successful design has turned Villa Austevoll into a year-round family retreat, demonstrating Saunders’ ability to create innovative and contextually responsive architecture.

Villa austevoll / saunders architecture
Villa austevoll / saunders architecture
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Project Location

Address: Villa Austevoll, Bekkjarvik, Selbjørn, Austevoll, Norway

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