Weekend Cabin: Roparhaugen, Norway

Even on a sunny day, Roparhaugen, Norway, is moody and romantic, the far northern light slightly askew, the North Atlantic dark and steel, and when the clouds settle in or smear across the sky in a pastel soup it becomes a place of almost aching beauty.

This house…it is far more feeling than words. Asmund Olstad and Bjørg Owren were friends in school, sweethearts if I remember correctly, until their lives took them apart and they grew up and met others, had children, became successful in their careers, him as a professor, her as an architecture journalist. Many years later, they both suffered unimaginable losses of loved ones, by chance ran into each other, and in their reconnection and shared grief found each other anew.

Roparhaugen became their outlet and expression, as they traveled from Oslo or nearby Molde on weekends. They poured their energies into building something of honor on this wind-swept rise above rocky barrier islands, and the structure reflects a deep connection to tradition, with furnishings and style that seem rooted in centuries of Scandinavian life. Roparhaugen is new, but it feels old, grounded, and even the way it’s sunk into the ground suggests a desire to hold on to the solid.

What looks from the outside like separate dwellings is actually one. They’re connected through a series of underground passageways, light giving to dark and back to light as you wander the warren of rooms. Ladders lead to alcoves, sometimes revealing a tiny nook for sleeping, sometimes a large airy room. Stone, wood, and candles are the motif. And everywhere there are paintings and sketches, on the walls and in the walls, the work of a Belorussian artist who lived at Roparhaugen in exchange for his efforts.

In English, Roparhaugen means “yelling hill”. Many years ago, there was a fish camp on the islands off shore. The men worked on the island all week and on Saturdays, their night off, they came back to the mainland to drink. Late in the night, they would stand, wobbly, on top of the hill and holler for the rowboats to come get them. There isn’t much yelling at Roparhaugen any more — it’s a quiet place, until the wind blows anyway, a perfect place to dip a paddle in still water, or simply to sit, still.

Photos: Casimiro

Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.

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