Transparency and Warmth – Early Environmental Techniques in Villa Stenersen

The aim of this essay is to reveal environmental techniques, such as heating and air conditioning, in Villa Stenersen (1939) as designed by Arne Korsmo (1900-1968).

 

Introduction

Villa Stenersen is considered as one of the earliest housing examples of the functionalist style in Norway. The facades separated from pilots’s and the  flat roof recall houses by Le Corbusier.

The main façade of Villa Stenersen is particularly distinctive, with a composition in which glass, glass blocks, and walls with windows are assigned to each of the three floors according to the internal functions. In the façade, glass and glass blocks are used in a large area, and therefore living rooms in the first and second floors are highly transparent, bright, and modern spaces. However, it is difficult to import the transparency of modernist buildings into the cold environment of Norway. How did Korsmo deal with this issue? First, we will clarify the heating and ventilation techniques used in this house and then explain how they are used to create both highly transparent and non-transparent spaces.

[1] Villa Stenersen

[2] Digital Archives in the website of The National Museum

As a material, the drawings of Villa Stenersen published in the digital collection of The National Museum(https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/) are used (fig.2).

Heating

Four types of heating methods are used in this house: fireplaces, hot water pipes, radiators, and air conditioning.  

Fireplace

Fireplaces are installed in three locations: the living room on the first and second floor, and the library on the second floor ( fig.3,4,5,6,7).

[3][4] Fireplace in the Living Room on the 1st Floor

[5][6] Fireplace in the Living Room on the 2nd Floor

[7] Fireplace in the Library Room on the 2nd Floor

The exhaust air duct of those fireplaces extends vertically, but only the one in the living room on the first floor bends slightly and joins the duct in the library on the second floor. There are two designs for the fireplace in the living room on the second floor, one with a rectangular shape and one with a round shape. The square one was realized.

Hot Water Pipe & Radiator

The heating system with the hot water pipe is installed in the ceilings of the two living rooms on the first and second floor, which faces the main façade (fig.8,9).

[8][9] Hot Water Pipe in the Living Rooms

The existence of the hot water pipe can be confirmed by the two detailed drawings, but one drawn on 22.07.1937-02.09.1937 shows the hot water pipe only near the window, while another drawing made on 21.10.1937 shows the hot water pipe in a wider area than the other one.

In addition, in another detailed drawing, it can be confirmed that the radiator is used near the window.

There is a boiler room behind the parking lot on the basement floor, and the heat source for hot water pipes and radiators assumed to be this (fig.10).

[10] Boiler Room on the Basement Floor

Air Conditioning by Warm Air

A horizontal duct is drawn near the ceiling in the interior elevation of the kitchen for transferring warm air (fig.11). Looking at the plan, a vertical duct for air conditioning is connected to this horizontal duct.

[11] Duct for Air Conditioning in the Kitchen

In the plans, there are five vertical ducts. Three are the vertical exhaust ducts for each of the fireplaces, one is the duct for the underground boiler room, and one is the shaft that connects the laundry room to upper floors, which is not related to heating. The existence of these exhaust ducts can be confirmed by looking at the roof plan (fig.12).

In addition, there is an underground boiler room as one of the heat sources.

[12] Roof Plan

In summary, in this house, different types of heating methods are used in combination. In addition, there is an underground boiler room as one of the heat sources.

Ventilation

In addition to normal windows, various ventilation openings are used to provide fresh air.

The first is a ventilation vent on the wall. The most typical one is the green ventilation vent in the living room on the first floor (fig.13,14). According to the notation in one of the drawings, this serves as a warm air vent.

[13][14] Vent for Extracting Warm Air in the Living Room

Other ventilation openings are sometimes installed in a devised way. For example, in the kitchen on the second floor, the ventilation vent for supplying and exhausting the air are hidden in the pantry so the ventilation is easily controlled by opening and closing pantry’s door (fig.15).

[15] Air vent hidden in Pantry

Another interesting example is the air vent installed along with a window. In the detailed drawing, a small vent is drawn just below the window sill (fig.16). The window can be opened when the amount of ventilation needs to be increased, but in cold temperatures, ventilation can be achieved by this small vent.

[16] Air Vent under the Window

In addition to the openings on the wall, ventilation duct installed on the back of ceiling can be found in a drawing. In the library room on the second floor, a duct for supplying the air to the inner space is drawn from the window side to the fireplace side(fig.17). This one is also an example in which a ventilation vent is installed in addition to the window nearby.

In the bedroom, a ventilation duct which mimics a pillar is adopted. This hollow cylinder with small holes functions as an air duct (fig.18,19).

[17] Air Duct for Ventilation on the Back of the Ceiling in the Library Room

[18][19] “Pillar” for Ventilation in the Bed Room

Conclusion

The spaces in this house can be roughly divided into two types: the living room on the first and second floors, which are highly transparent, and other non transparent spaces. It was confirmed that the fireplaces and the hot water pipe in the ceiling are used in a highly transparent space, and the fireplace, radiator, warm air are used in other spaces. As for ventilation, it was confirmed that ventilation openings other than windows are installed in the living room on the first floor and other non-transparent spaces. In other words, there is not much difference in the ventilation method between a highly transparent room and non-transparent rooms. Regarding heating, the difference was that hot water pipes were used in highly transparent spaces, but not in other rooms. In transparent rooms where the main façade can be seen directly from inside, for example, radiators which disturbs the façade’s appearance cannot be placed in front of it. In order to show the interior side of the main façade clearly, and to prevent condensation in winter season, heating installed in the ceiling near the façade can be a rational idea. That is assumed to be as an ingenuity which is trying to achieve a clear spatial expression and stabilisation of the indoor environment at the same time (fig.21).

The environmental technology of this house is not perfect. Oddvar Norli, the only president who lived in the house, moved out after two years because of the cold interior climate in winter season. The basic system of these environmental techniques in this house are so fundamental and practical that we still use them, but their quality seems to be insufficient for comfortable life in the winter of Oslo.

[21] Transparent Space on the 1st Floor, where Hot Water Pipe Is Set in the Ceiling

[20] Heating & Ventilation in the Plan

 

Images

[Top Image][13] Villa Stenersen - Open House Oslo / URL : https://www.openhouseoslo.org/?portfolio=villa-stenersen-3

[1] Villa Stenersen på Vindern i Oslo er fredet - Riksantikvaren / URL : https://www.riksantikvaren.no/fredninger/villa-stenersen-pa-vindern-i-oslo-er-fredet/

[2] Screenshot taken by the author

[3] Photograph taken by the author

[4] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 25.10.1937-15.02.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.112

[5] Photographed by Wilse, Anders Beer, 1938 / Oslobilder / URL : http://www.oslobilder.no/OMU/OB.X1027?query=villa+stenersen&count=12&search_context=1&pos=7

[6] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 30.10.1937-02.03.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.230

[7] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 29.10.1937-02.03.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.244

[8] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 21.10.1937 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.272

[9] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 22.07.1937-02.09.1937 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.137

[10] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 1937-1939 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.066

[11] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 06.12.1937-13.01.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.185

[12] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 1937-1939 / National Museum / URL :  https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.108

[14] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 29.10.1937-02.03.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.244

[15] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 06.12.1937-13.01.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.185

[16] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 14.12.1937-26.01.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.138

[17] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 29.10.1937-02.03.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.244

[18] Photograph taken by the author

[19] Rolf Stenersen, Arne Korsmo, 08.06.1938 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NMK.2016.0063.002.126

[20] Diagram drawn by the author

[21] Photographer - uncertain, 1939-1945 / National Museum / URL : https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NAMF.01922.004