Modern Scandinavian houses have huge windows to let in the light. Some have hardly windows at all. Scandinavian experiments to enclose dwellings within greenhouses are bearing fruit in Scandinavia, both literally and in terms of sustainability.
You are noticing everything that happens when you live in a glass house where you and your body are aware of every minute of daylight. On an island In northern Norway, Aurora Borealis provides a backdrop to Benjamin and Ingrid Hjertefolger’s home under a domed glass shell. Certainly, it raises the stakes in a game of keeping up with the neighbors.
Related: Scandinavia Dreaming
Living in a glasshouse in Sweden
Charles Sacilotto, from France, bought a wooden house on an island in the Stockholm archipelago in 2002. His next step was to buy an $84,000 commercial greenhouse, used to grow tomatoes, and enclose his entire home in glass.
Sacilotto created what the late Swedish eco-architect Bengt Warne first designed and built in the 1970s: a naturhus (nature house), a home within a greenhouse with space to grow fruit and vegetables from warmer climates and no need for a mains sewage connection.
Bengt Warne was a very skilled architect and researcher who devoted his life to designing and erecting houses that would allow people to live in harmony with nature. His Water Lily House, the Nature House and many others, are all examples of his vision of an ecological way of living.
In 2010, research by Lester van Ree, of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, showed that a greenhouse residence is less likely to overheat than a super-insulated, airtight house and saves 25 per cent on winter heating bills.
Sacilotto’s house is a contemporary take on Warne’s idea, it affords the Sacilotto-Granmar clan a unique connection to their environment.
Living in a glasshouse in Denmark
In Bornholm, Denmark in an often dark and wintry climate, a team of Oxford University researchers tried to find out in its investigation into the health-benefits of daylight.
The 35 square-meter house is designed by the British company Cantifix which sees its potential in both futuristic housing and the tourist industry. The project involved 30 Danish volunteers, who take turns to live in the glass house.
“The most special thing about this house is that it does not matter if a bird is flying over, well then you are aware of it, you are noticing everything that happens. It is so quiet and completely silent, you just enjoy that you are all of a sudden in the middle of nature,” said one of the volunteers, Nana Rytter Nielsen.
The project also focuses on the effect of daylight on an array of diseases – from obesity, diabetes and stress to serious neurological illnesses like Parkinsons, Alzheimers, depression and schizophrenia.
“I’ve always wanted to live in a glass house. When I was a design and communication student in Copenhagen, I fell in love with the Farnsworth House”, says Kasper Egelund, whose dream came through with a home that blurs boundaries between indoor and out.
He and his wife Heidi have built a modern villa on the Danish seaside with front row to the Baltic sea. It is a two storey building that features floor-to-ceiling glazing, added to bring the surrounding nature within the walls of the family home.
“With this view, you’re in constant conversation with the outside,” says the couple.
Living in a glass house in Norway
Throughout the 20th century, architects promoted the glasshouse as a symbol of mental liberation. Around the time of World War I, German expressionist architects wrote ardent manifestos about glass structures that would contribute to the moral health of future society. Later architects with links to the so-called international style insisted that homes with glass walls enhanced the occupants’ experience of the natural environment and their awareness of the need to contemplate nature.
The Steigen archipelago in northern Norway is almost as remote as it gets in Europe, lying 62 miles inside the Arctic Circle. Among other dramatic features, it is home to the continent’s largest colony of sea eagles. The base there is the tiny island of Manshausen, where a resort and activity center has been created by polar explorer Børge Ousland – the first person to reach the North Pole in a solo and unsupported expedition – as a place for exploring “the harmony between people and nature”.
Out in the archipelago of Steigen, polar explorer Børge Ousland bought his own island, Mannshausen, where he commissioned some unique cabins, just the way he wanted them. These stylish cabins are inspired by a lifelong interest in architecture and some of Norway’s other innovative new buildings.
In 1964 PAM Mellbye’s described the famous Norwegian architect Geir Grung’s glass house in Jongskollen outside Oslo, “The boundary between inside and out, between cold and warmth, between technology and nature, has vanished … Liberated of something, but somewhat febrile, one continues floating in the glass room beneath the night sky, overcome by drama and a bold yearning to confront a howling storm that one could laugh at.”
Feature image (on top): Glass house for yoga practioners in Norway
Living in Scandinavian Glass Houses, compiled by Tor Kjolberg