[Location] Urnes, Norway     [Type] Visitor center     [Size] 1000 sqm     [Status] Proposal
[Collaborators] Alicja Kubicka & Borja Martínez Gómez 
Urnes Stave Church is unique in a national and international context. It is not the most ostentatious nor the most accessible church in Norway. Nevertheless, Urnes Stave Church was chosen to represent Norway on the World Heritage List in 1979. The church was highlighted along with Norway's foremost monuments, because of its unique and most special finely-engraved ornaments on the northern door. The small building, with its prominent position in the landscape, gains strength in its simplicity. What the interior offers of wealth, is in a way absent in the exterior - except on the northern door. The interaction with the rugged mountains and the turquoise fjord creates an overwhelming situation, where the history of the place becomes alive. Here you can sense that Norway, over many centuries, largely consisted of small, isolated communities.

The development of the visitor center should be perceived in the same way. Simple but detailed. Connected to the surroundings, but at the same time characteristic. The main intention for the visitor center has been to create a center in close dialog with the stave church and the surrounding cultural landscape. As the stave church and the cultural landscape play the main role, it is important that the visitor center is a supplement to the existing character of the place, and not the other way around. 

Since the visitor center is seen from a distance, it is extra important that the building is kept low in the terrain, and not obstructing the views towards the stave church. The visitor center will complement the experience of the stave church, and not itself appear as the dominant volume. The body of the building is therefore lowered into the terrain, and the height of the ridge does not exceed the road leading up to the stave church.

Great emphasis has been placed on continuing the use of retaining walls in natural stone, as they give the town its special character. The retaining wall has a constructive function, but will also be an aesthetic sight in the new visitor center. The center is perceived through the two elements natural stone and wood. The natural stone settles firmly in the steep terrain and provides space for the light wooden construction, which plays with the aesthetics of the stave church. 

The building is arranged so that visitors will experience the place's special character and cultural landscape in combination with the visitor center's inner exhibition and public areas. Seen from the main entrance,  the building conveys a clear connection and relation to  "Urneshagen", an existing apple orchard. The building's asymmetrical gable roof gives a more modest appearance both seen from the fjord and seen from the northern and southern facades

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