Investigating the principles of wooden solid construction versus wooden filigree construction | Designing and constructing a sauna in the settlement of Vang in the Valdres region in Norway.

Valdres is a region in the eastern part of Norway, extending northbound towards the west coast over the mountains. The settlement in Valdres emerged based on agriculture, hunting and forestry, and is famous for its strong traditions within music, artisan craft and building culture.

Vang is the westernmost of six municipalities in Valdres and has around 1600 inhabitants. It is located halfway between Bergen and Oslo, where the typical eastern agricultural landscape and inland climate merges with the dramatic mountain scenery of western Norway. Throughout history, the ties have been stronger to the west.

The craftsmen for the job were 15 architect students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and the constructing process took place within ten days in April 2015.

It took seven days to prefabricate and assemble the massive wood elements in the production hall of “Norsk Massivtre AS” located in the southern part of Valdres. Then transporting the prefabricated and cladded sauna and changing room to Vang, placing them on the wood pile foundation made by the students on site. The prefabricated elements where put together and cladded, the sauna oven was mounted and the floorboards added during three days on site.


Designing and constructing the sauna is part of a half-year Master course, named AAR4623 and AAR4904 – Topology, Typology and Tectonics. It is initiated by the Department of Architectural Design, History and Technology at the Faculty of Architectural Design and Fine Art at NTNU. The course aims to develop a tectonic and a site- specific approach to architecture. It is about a basic understanding of architecture and about the global environmental and social challenges of our time. The intention is to strengthen the professional skills of the architects, in order to respond to the needs of society today. The American poet Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972) wrote: “Music degenerates if it moves too far away from dance, and poetry shrivels if it becomes too remote from music and song. In the same way, architecture has its own origin, and if it moves too far away from it, it loses its effectiveness. The renewal of an art, means rediscovering its deepest essence.”

The course investigates the meaning of using local resources in architecture. The question might seem controversial in a time when architecture and construction technology seems to be concerned of the use of materials from all over the globe. In Norway, bricks are import from Belgium, wood from Lithuania and Siberia, natural stones from China, glass from France etc. It seems like the main part of industrialised building industry today is so concerned to operate in a global context, risking to overlook values in the near surroundings. The course will discuss how global and local understanding can enrich one other in a dualistic relationship; the meaning of “the local in the global and the global in the local.”


Designing and constructing the sauna in Vang is strongly integrated in the 3 – year FoU research program “Tre i Valdres 2018” – sustainability as a function of development of regional social conditions and local wooden based enterprises.

The overall research questions to be investigated is:

1: The impact of constructing in a local society when it comes to value a traditional building culture in the industrialized production of today.

2: The impact of constructing when it comes to value local raw materials, local competence in handcraft and industrial construction.

3: The dilemma between applying existing materials and the possibility to invent new products?

4: The impact on local economic, social and cultural life when construction of houses and the architecture is based on local materials and competence.


For the sauna project, as well as “Tre i Valdres 2018” FoU-project, the investigation is founded on three parts and interaction between each of them:

a: Vang

Local partners: Innovangsjon AS and Vang Municipality.

b: Industry

Local partners are Norsk Massivtre AS, producing solid wood elements, and Begna Bruk AS, producing high quality spruce cladding.


Department of Architectural Design, History and Technology. Research team on “Materials and constructions”.


The construction concept is based on the product stacked elements of “Norsk Massivtre AS”, which is nine stacked and screwed 2” by 4” boards to make elements of 40cm which is then screwed together to make walls, roof- or floor slabs.

The product where further developed by students to make finger joints in corners and meeting points. Every other board overlapping, with a link to the traditional log knitted walls, but also to strengthen the connection and express its feature.

In the heated sauna, the massive wood walls are enclosed, but with every other board removed in the floor to ventilate. Every other board is also removed in the top of the northern wall to let in light and open for view.

In the changing room the construction concept was brought further by removing every other board in the entire section, making the room lighter and vented. All of the constructive elements is made in the same system with the finger joint 2” by 4” boards making a closed circle system if viewed in the cross section. The sidewalls use the same material dimensions with the same orientation as the constructive boards. The floorboards are 4” wide to align with the sidewalls, and the roof cladding is distributed with a 2” center distance to fit in the system.

The plan is to open the view and form an intimate outdoor topa with a fireplace. The back wall is conceived to let the sun in from behind and reduce the vision into the patio. It also breaks the wind. This half transparent effect is reached by dissolving the original massive wood element into a structure with every second plank missing. This was even pushed further, using only a pillar and a beam as the load-bearing structure.

The shape of the sauna wall is designed to get most of the heat to the top bench where people are sitting. The slope of the wall also makes the benches more comfortable. This idea of using the slope of the sauna to create a place to sit we also made use of in our design of the changing room. Both of these volumes are covered with cladding only on the weather-exposed sides.


Vang, Valdres, Norway

Arnstein Olav Gilberg, Finn Hakonsen and Marius Waagaard

Norsk Massivtre AS
Begna Bruk AS
Vang kommune
Innovangsjon AS
Vang Sparebank
Kvismo sag AS
Valdres Blikk og Ventilasjon AS
Vang Energiverk KF
Lage Gjevre AS
Bjørn Hammerstad Transport
Kosa Seg AS
Kontorfelleskapet 1724

Inger Kristin Aamot, Edouard Bernard, Camille Boudeweel, Philip Bürgi, Lisa Chaplain, Sophie Galarneau, William Gibson, Andreas Magerøy, Rodrigo Mazari, Armida Kanutte Næss, Henriette Bakke Nielsen, Ina Samdal, Claudia Spörri, Anneluus Vermeersch and Kjetil Wehn

63 000 NOK covered by sponsors (sponsored materials are not included in the cost)

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