Forest Finns

Tags: arts, exhibition, timber, new build

Related projects: House of Mastication


This proposal is for a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the so-called Forest Finns – Finnish migrants who relocated to Sweden and Norway during the late 16th and early-to-mid-17th centuries. The Forest Finns migrated to Norway and were involved in the traditional ‘slash-and-burn’ technique of agriculture where forest was quickly transformed into fertile growing land. Today most Forest Finns have been assimilated into Norwegian culture with the last Finnish speakers passing away in the late 1960s.

The museum is conceived as a large smoke house arranged around three landscapes. Logs are made from glulam beams, notched and stacked to form a structural exterior wall. A limit on the maximum length of beam requires a notched corner every 14 metres or less. This simple tectonic principal creates a gentle stepping and articulation of the notched beams on the exterior that follows the arrangement of spaces within.

At the centre of the building are two stone rooms each facing onto an internal courtyard. These stone rooms are the "smoke rooms" that provide radiant heat to the surrounding rooms. In place of fire, heat comes from ground source heat exchange which is distributed around the building in warm water pipes. These two stone "smoke rooms" are the cultural heart of the building providing space for the Auditorium and Library.

The building is arranged around a journey through the three landscapes of slash and burn farming. The first "smoke room" (the auditorium) as well as the reception and administration wing are formed around the landscape of the untouched Nordic forest; as it would have been found by the forest Finns as they moved into new territories. The second "smoke room" (the library) and the exhibition rooms are clustered around a courtyard of black earth and rock. This courtyard represents the burnt landscape as well as the charcoal industry that would later put an end to their livelihood. These two internal courtyards are clad on all four sides by mirrored glass creating the impression of an infinite landscape. The final landscape is set within the last room of the permanent exhibition and looks outward to present day Norway across a cultivated clearing of seeded grasses. These grasses are the first stage of life after the burning and represent the cultivated landscape of the Finnskogg farmstead.