A House to Die In
Art becomes architecture


Landscape Architecture, Architecture


It all starts in 2011 when the Norwegian artist, Bjarne Melgaard, reaches out to Olav and Frederik Selvaag with the idea of making a sculpture that would double as a house. Having a long tradition of supporting Norwegian artists, the Selvaag brothers adhere to the idea. Shortly after, Snøhetta gets involved in the project. The artist and the architects exchanged thoughts, drawings, 3D models and documents to co-create a house that could function as Melgaard’s private residence and atelier.

Technical details

Residential, Art, Installation & Commissions
Design Proposal
Oslo, Norway

Sealbay AS

The Selvaag brothers suggest Kikkut, a plot that has been owned by the Selvaag family for decades on the west side of Oslo, as a good location for the Melgaard house. The choice of the plot comes naturally as the area is already an artistic hub thanks to its proximity to the art colony Ekely and Edvard Munch’s former home and atelier. Nothing has been built on the plot since the villa that used to adorn the plot was demolished in 1989, and the Selvaag brothers see a good opportunity to realize an ambitious art project on behalf of an artist that they have followed for a long time.

Photo: MIR and Snøhetta

The building is clad with black, burned oak, inspired by Japanese building traditions. The burnt oak will naturally erode over time so that the building gradually changes character throughout the years and seasons. A shallow water pond below the building creates an illusion of a «floating» building.

Melgaard’s drawings are projected back onto the geometrical façades. The colors translate into imprints that are cast back onto the façades. While subtle and translucent colors provide a light imprint into the façades, saturated colors break through the material entirely, inviting light into the building. For the first time, the architecture describes an artistic expression.

Converting Melgaard’s art into architecture is a meticulous digital process. The work consists of shaping digital models consisting of a small-scaled triangular pattern. Snøhetta models selected Melgaard drawings before initiating a reduction process of the models to achieve buildable shapes. A large number of the triangles are then digitally removed from the 3D model, creating a rougher and more geometrical pattern. The façades of the house take shape. The house has become a physical, triangular wooden house resting on poles of white animal-shaped sculptures. For the first time, Melgaard’s art describes an architectural space and expression.

Photo: PScript5.dll Version 5.2.2

On the inside of the building, Melgaard’s artistic universe and home concept complement each other perfectly. While one of the rooms could function both as swimming pool and dining room, another could function as workspace and spa. These untraditional pairings are a direct symbol of how conventions are prevented from influencing the building’s usage or design.