Nordseter Fjellkirke

Despite Erling Viksjø’s importance as a Norwegian architect, his 1964 Nordseter Fjellkirke remains almost unknown. This post aims to be a brief over-view of the building as there are currently very few resources available for the curious.

The church is a church. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s plan is extremely functional. Downstairs: Entrance, kitchen, toilet, chapel, altar. Upstairs: toilet, organ room.

It’s form is triangular, perhaps a reference to the holy trinity, or stave churches or boathouse. It is clear, however that there is a strong relationship between the Fjellkirke and Bakkehaugen Kirke, which he constructed in 1959: the triangle is the sectional form that Viksjø appeared to consider most suitable for a modern church.

1) Fjellkirke. Byggekunst 1964, p. 178
2) Stave Church. Image from wikipedia.

A little research shows that this distinct form was a popular strategy in Norway and abroad in the 1960s. Nordseter Fjellkirke sits then strongly within the tradition of modernist churches. Bakkehaugen Church by Viksjø in 1959, Skargill Chapel by George Pace in Yorkshire in 1960, and Indiana Baptist Church by Harry Weese in 1965 and some of the most directly comparable examples.

 

1) Bakkehaugen Church. Digitalmuseum. 
2) Skargill Chapel. Eagle Gkiza blog.
3) Indaina Baptist Church. Archpaper.

The fjellkirke’s structure is its ornament. Straight ribs. Appearing solid to the viewer while actually detailed and constructed in 3 distinct pieces – according to Byggekunst this was due to issues with torsional forces and suitability for fitting wall panels. Insulated wall panels sit between these pieces. These panels are all the same, they have no windows. Daylight is instead provided at the two intersections between the 3 volumes that make the church. This means the church is insular – all focus remains on the activity within, external views are limited. The only other ornament is provided by the back wall, which appears to be concrete with dark wood inset panels.

1) Author’s own, 2016
2) Author’s own, 2016

A trip to the national archive shows that Viksjø has drawn every element of the building, no matter how small. He has taken great care that everything is simple; and it seems to me that everything bares reference to the triangle. The most striking example of this is the wine jug for communion. It has been drawn at 1:1 scale; 2 elevations and plan. Even in this small element, there is a relationship to the form of the building.

 

1) Author’s own 2016
2) Author’s own, 2016

Selection of original drawings used as sources for this post:

Erling Viksjø, 1963. Studiesalen, National Museum Archive.

Erling Viksjø, 1963. Studiesalen, National Museum Archive.

 Erling Viksjø, 1963. Studiesalen, National Museum Archive.

Erling Viksjø, 1963. Studiesalen, National Museum Archive.

Erling Viksjø, 1963. Studiesalen, National Museum Archive.

Erling Viksjø, 1963. Studiesalen, National Museum Archive.

Bibliography:
Byggekunst, 1964. p. 178-180