The Embodiment of 'Genius Loci' in Norwegian Timber Architecture

Dissertation Abstract

“Does Norwegian Architecture Capture the Essence of ‘Genius Loci’ (Spirit of Place) – An Exploration of the Connection between Norwegian Timber Architecture and ‘Spirit of Place’?”

Perceived to be anchored within the environment, Norwegian architecture appears paradoxical, establishing a balance between tradition and modernity. This dissertation intends to consider genius loci in relation to Norwegian architecture and the connection between timber and ‘spirit of place’. Exploration of this question proceeds with a series of literature studies to contextualise the theory of genius loci, before undertaking analysis of three examples of Norwegian timber architecture.

The study begins by analysing the theory of genius loci, drawing from Heidegger’s notion of ‘place’ and Christain Norberg-Schulz’s qualitative and quantitative understanding. A review of literature establishes integral themes associated with genius loci, concluding that ‘spirit of place’ is achieved through a totality of constituent parts whereby strength and meaning cannot be reduced to a singular property. Further study of Sverre Fehn demonstrates the significance of genius loci upon architectural communication, whilst, investigation of influences and preconditions implies a desire within the Norwegian culture to maintain a conscious connection with tradition and memory.  

Timber has deep rooted connotations within Norwegian culture, examination of the relationship between timber and genius loci reveals evidence of its significance in achieving ‘spirit of place’. Further investigation of case studies, using a critical framework derived from parameters of genius loci, concludes with timber being representative of a recurring theme through which ‘spirit of place’ is consciously developed.

This study was produced as a result of a personal interest with Norwegian architecture and how it contextualises itself with the landscape and surrounding.