Villa Stenersen

Villa Stenersen – Arne Korsmo – 1937korsmoVilla Stenersen, Arne Korsmo’s most famous work, is one of the most important examples of Norwegian functionalist architecture -or as Norwegians call it: “funkis”. Modernism in Scandinavia arrived in the late 1920s. In Norway the movement was received with much support. It maintained its dominant position until about 1940s. Modernism was a global movement that affected and inspired the architects from all over the world. As a student of architecture I am aware of its main principles, that is why I decided to study a Norwegian building that follows that vocabulary, in order to distinguish similarities from the ones that I have already studied.

Firstly, lets take a look at the author, Arne Korsmo. Summing up from the things that I read, he must have been a master at turning things upside down! He had the ability to see things under a quite new light, getting a completely different perspective on the problems he had to face. Like many architects, he was concerned with the wish to express or address a particular combination of a site, people and function without boundaries. His belief was that the architect should be the one who leads the way, and shapes man’s surroundings. That was also the reason that he admired Le Corbusier’s work, who had the ability, according to Korsmo, to identify the tasks that were the most essential at each time.

Korsmo, inspired by Ellefsen’s article published in 1927 with the name “What is Modern Architecture,” had been taking into consideration in his works the climate and terrain, the design and materials, as well as the unique architect’s personal contribution. Villa Stenersen is a successful example that reflects all of these elements. To begin with, as the architect mentioned “the view from the building site to the Oslo’s fjord determined the plan”. The existing irregular slopping knoll did not block the architect’s plan. On the other hand, he took advantage of that, and placed the main volume in a way it balances with the environment, making the terrain and the house appear as a whole.

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As for the spatial arrangement of the program, Arne had the ability to transform the rooms into dynamic compositions of different elements. The house was not developed into various spacial zones defined as separate volumes, as in Villa Damman, but as movements within and in relation to a comprehensive, prismatic block. The dynamics are especially pronounced on the entrance level, where the curved wall in the drive-through wall is repeated in the hall, while a circular threshold marks the transition between the exterior and the interior. The concrete skeleton in Stenersen’s house runs through all the four floors, linking exterior and interior, while defining the basic proportions of the house and keeping the floating space of the free plan from ending in chaos.

Except from this concrete structure, the architect decides to use materials that were rather new for the time, such as tinted glass, celotex, kraftex and block windows among others. He avoids traditional moldings and frames, and works with an open collage of surfaces and forms. The division of the space, the elements and everything in the house has its reason of existence. The house was meant to be built for the art collector, Rolf Stenersen and his exhibits. So that was and the only restriction for Korsmo who manipulated the space and construction as to reflect the inner needs and clarity with good proportions. His only goal with architecture moreover, was to make people rich, in a way to be able to absorb everything that exists in their surroundings.  For that reason, I believe that this example not only follows the main principles of functionalism showing an understanding of a universal scale, but also managing to maintain the local and personal architecture which was also the main goal for a successful development.