Hotel Finse 1222
Old meets new in a historic mountain hotel


Architecture, Interior Architecture


With the ambition of bridging the past and present, Snøhetta renovates the Hotel Finse 1222 in the mountains of Norway. The task is to bring the historic hotel into the future while maintaining its rich history and local traditions. The Snøhetta team has dived into the vast historic material on site, finding both exclusive design classics in the attic and plenty of photographs telling manyfold stories from activities, design, and interiors on site. The result is a renovated building where old furniture and interior are reused and refurbished, in combination with new designs and pieces made by Snøhetta and local craftsmen.

Technical details

Destination, Hospitality, Recreation
Finse, Norway

Entrepreneur Seimen AS

2500 m2, 5 floors

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

2 Rich history

The mountain village of Finse lies at the very highest point of the Norwegian Railway track. The destination is only possible to arrive at by train and is known for its extraordinary mountain landscapes, expedition training, and by some, as the location of filming “Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” (1980).

The name “finse” comes from the North Germanic language Old Norse and means “lake in the wilderness”. With a population of only six people (2021), a train station, a cabin run by The Norwegian Trekking Association, a railway museum, and Hotel Finse 1222 - Finse is literally that. 

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

The hotel was first built as a mountain lodge in 1906. Offering shelter for railroad builders working on the tracks connecting the city of Bergen with the Norwegian capital Oslo. In 1909 the place reopened as a hotel. Driven by both the developing traveling habits of European aristocracy at the time and word-of-mouth, the hotel developed into an international hotspot. Walls display memories from prominent visitors throughout the year. Including the Prince of Wales, Norwegian figure skater Sonia Hennie and authors Hulda and Arne Garborg. Furthermore, several famous explorers have spent time at the hotel, such as Fridtjof Nansen, who have done their training and prepared for their next expedition.

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

3 From the attic

The aim to conserve and reuse as much as possible of existing materials and furniture on-site is a key element in the renovation process, from the old wooden floors beneath the carpet to furniture classics and materials. The color palette of the interiors is inspired by a unique textile by William Morris, one of that time’s greatest textile designers, and his fabric “Bird” was discovered on old furniture found on site. In the dining room, floral William Morris wallpaper now covers the walls, and the room's decorative plaster ceiling is preserved and complemented with ornate brass-stemmed lamps as a nod to historic times. Quite a few furniture items from the hotel's previous era are refurbished and reused. Place-built interiors are designed by Snøhetta, and tables and stools are made by local carpenters from available wood in the area. The result is an eclectic mix of old British and classic Norwegian designs, new Nordic-style interiors, wooden furniture, and colorful surfaces.

Photo: Ivar Kvaal/Snøhetta

4 Red and blue

The defining element of the interior of the hotel is the outdoors. Finse’s unparalleled nature attracts hikers, skiers, and explorers, as well as those who simply come to enjoy a relaxing weekend getaway and the view over lake Finsevann and the glacier Hardangerjøkulen. Although different, all the visitors do share a connection with nature. Large panorama windows throughout the hotel open the space up to nature, inviting it in.

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

One of the most spectacular attractions at Finse is the winter sunset turning everything blue. Inspired by the colors of the sun and its amazing effect on the colors on the surroundings, the colors of the interior range from warm reds and orange to colder blue and greens. 

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

The same goes for many of the works of art decorating the hotel from previous times – the mix and contrast of warm and cold colors interact and are at the very core of today’s palette.

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

Photo: Ivar Kvaal/Snøhetta

Based on the conceptual color palette for the hotel, the hotel rooms are also redesigned, including tailormade elements for the hotel. One example is the hotel-specific blanket. Inspired by the glacier Hardangerjøkulen itself, it is designed to match both the views and ambiance on site.

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

Photo: Snøhetta

Aiming to further strengthen the hotel’s identity and establish a distinct language, Snøhetta Design is also part of the Finse destination development. Again, based on vast historical material on-site, including the oldest signs found for the hotel and the name of the station, a new logo and tailormade font for Finse 1222 is developed.

Photo: Helge Skodvin/Snøhetta

5 The Building

By attentively adjusting and upgrading the existing building mass, only adding new elements where it is absolutely needed, the historical qualities of the place are conserved.

A few new suites are built after elevating the rooftop of the main building and adjusting the facade. The technique to lift the roof is something out of the ordinary, a tailor-made “fold” designed to ensure that the snow doesn’t stack up on the roof. In general, the site is placed in an area with rough weather conditions, and several improvements have been made in the building mass as such, ensuring that the buildings are even more resilient to the at times harsh environment, including a new roof, facade paneling, new windows, and finally, the new balcony outside the reception area.