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Can You Make a Fireplace for Children?

A Fireplace for children

A Fireplace for Children, by Haugen Zohar Arkitekter, in Skjermveien Kindergarten, Trondheim, Norway. Landscape architecture is usually associated with grand scale. Landscape design signifies decisions that may have implications on an urban or even territorial level. However, there are small landscape projects or rather, installations, which function like gentle gestures to enhance outdoor, spatial experience. A small cabin in the town of Trondheim in Norway belongs to this type of project. The structure serves as a sheltered fireplace for children. It complements the playground equipment that already exists on the site. It is used for playing, storytelling and enjoying being near the fire.

A Fireplace for children

Photo courtesy of Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter

A Fireplace for Children

The design team, Haugen-Zohar Arkitekter, has managed to combine in this small intervention several qualities which are hard to find in many projects:

  • Upcycling of Materials
  • Incorporating the traditions of Norwegian turf housing (Goahti) and Norwegian log joinery
  • Low cost
  • Sustainability
  • Creating a landmark and a meeting point for the children as well as their families
  • Reuse of Materials in an Imaginative Way

The tight project budget did not allow for any luxuries. The short wooden pieces that form the surrounding “shell” have been collected from a construction site nearby. Eighty layered circles of various diameters create a whimsical form.

A Fireplace for children

Photo courtesy of Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter

The whole structure has been placed on a concrete base. Every circle is made out of 28 pieces of a naturally impregnated core of pine which are placed with varied spaces to assure air circulation and natural light. The structure ends in an opening that works as a chimney. The fire is set in the center allowing for everyone to gather around it. A double curved sliding door was designed for locking the structure. There is a sense of motion that gives the installation an artistic quality. One could think of Cornelia Konrad’s land art projects. Her structures defy gravity and seem to elevate towards the sky like they are preparing to dissolve. You can take a closer look to Land Art Masterpieces in the LAN article: 10 Top Examples of Land Art from Around the World” by Paul McAtomney.
A Fireplace for children

Photo courtesy of Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter

Norwegian Tradition Reinvented in a New Intervention

The Norwegian turf houses called, “Goahti” are a beautiful example of how to live in harmony with nature. All materials used for this type of construction are found locally. The vegetation that ravels the wooden structure ensures its protection and insulation. The Fireplace for Children pays tribute to the “Goahti” in terms of shape and construction philosophy. However, it maintains its contemporary character.

A Fireplace for children

Photo courtesy of Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter

The wooden pieces that shape the Fireplace have been put together so as to allow light and air circulation in the interior of the installation. They also allow a few glimpses out towards the surrounding landscape and connect the interior of the installation with the external environment. The traditional Norwegian technique of wood construction and handling produce elaborate yet effective and attractive joints. Though the Fireplace for Children in Trondheim does not connect directly to the traditional approach, it certainly could be interpreted as an evolution in the field of traditional log joinery.

Limited Resources, Sustainability and Great Inspiration

There is no need for quality architecture to be expensive. The Fireplace for Children absolutely proves it. The project has been awarded with more than one prize and with citations such as Trondheims Byggeskikkspris 2010, AR Awards 2009, Project of the year 2010. The construction is totally sustainable as one can easily observe. There is no need for maintenance or energy consumption for the Fireplace to function. Fire is a source of light and heat, during the night. The structure should not need any maintenance unless there is some sort of damage. This is a quality that few projects seem to achieve. It certainly contributes to that the simple and recreational character of the project. Another astonishing example of sustainability and use of natural resources is described in the LAN article: Saving Wildlife Through Building Community Led Eco-lodges in Cambodia

A Fireplace for children

Photo courtesy of Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter

A Landmark and a Space for Play and Reverie

The structure itself bears many qualities that have already been analyzed. All these advantages would mean nothing if the project had not been so warmly embraced by the children and the community. It has become a landmark, a meeting point and a place where stories beside the fireplace become more fascinating than ever. Given that the weather conditions in Norway are quite harsh most of the time, the success of an outdoor installation acquires added value. The importance of playing, especially in a natural environment, is analyzed excellently in Ashley Penn’s article: What are the Benefits of Natural Play? The Fireplace for Children is a place that anyone, regardless of their age, could enjoy. It approaches the sense of warmth and protection of a womb, and at the same time the joy of coexisting and sharing a beautiful place with others. Should this not be the essence of every act of building? If an architect’s mind is set to meaningful, human-centered design, the answer is without any doubt, “Yes”. Leave a comment

A Fireplace for children

Photo courtesy of Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter

Full Project Credits For The Fireplace for Children

Project Name: Fireplace for Children Designers: Haugen Zohar Arkitekter Location: Skjermveien Kindergarten, Trondheim, Norway Dimensions: 5.2 x 4.5 meters, wooden construction Date of Completion: 2009 Client: Trondheim Municipality 3D consultancy: Scenario Architecture Rapid prototyping: Espen Bærheim Contractor: Pan Landskap A S Photograph: Jason Havneraas & Grethe Fredriksen Website: www.hza.no Twitter: www.twitter.com/haugen_zohar Recommended Reading:

Article by Eleni Tsirintani Return to Homepage

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