Espedalen is a valley in inland Norway to the east of Jotumheimen national park. The valley is home to the largest moose migration route in Europe. RAM Arkitektur was initially approached by the local community to suggest five architectural interventions in the region, with the aim of boosting tourism. Momentum quickly built around and early sketch for a moose-viewing tower, with basic overnight accommodation for six people, located on public forestry land, and in the heart of the migration route.
The main concept was to create a unique experience for guests to observe the natural beauty of this wilderness region. The 12 metre high tower is located on the edge of a small rocky outcrop, sitting on simple anchor points drill directly into the bedrock to minimise the buildings impact on the natural environment. It offers accommodation of a basic standard, with simple wooden platforms for beds, and has no running water or electricity. Heating is provided by wood stoves.
The building is raised three meters off the ground, with a covered outdoor sitting space underneath at ground level. The first plan is a 12sqm bedroom with six beds. Each bed is cantilevered out from the main structure, and surrounded on three sides by glass to create an experience of sleeping in the treetops. The second level is a 12sqm ‘viewing lounge’ with a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, and basic cooking facilities on a wood stove. The top level is a public viewing terrace, and a ‘treetop’ gas powered combustion toilet. Vertically the rooms are connected by and external staircase, which allows public access to the viewing platform. This was one of the premises for the building permit to be granted on public forestry land.
The general area is home to several points of archaeological interest, with the remains of historic moose traps dating back more than 1000 years. The project could not come into conflict with these protected sites. The main geology of the area is glacial moraine, which would require extensive foundations for a tower. This was not an option due to difficult access, and a desire to minimise damage to the delicate nature.
The client, architect, a geologist, an archaeologist, and representatives from the district council spent a day hiking around the area, marking previously unknown archaeological sites, and searching for a site with suitable ground conditions.
The remote location of the site, and limited accessibility with heavy machinery, was a leading factor in the design process. The construction concept was based on the use of prefabricated elements, the majoritybeing of a size and weight that could be handled by two people without mechanical assistance.It was a further consideration that much of the building process should take place during the winter months when the delicate vegetationis protected under a layer of snow. This also allowed for the transport of building materials by snow scooter.
Inspiration was drawn from the rich local history of log construction, and its logical modular principles. A pre-machined log element with dovetail corner joints was chosen for its precision and relative cost effectiveness. These are stacked directly onto the main glue laminated bearing structure. In this way the construction process could be complete directly from the main structure, without the need for additional scaffolding to mount external cladding. As a direct result of this methodology, all aspects of the construction are visible, creating a ‘bare bones honesty’ to the architectural and structural appearance of the tower.