I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study architecture in Norway in 1963. As a native of Washington State, I was particularly interested in wood construction, and was intrigued about Norway's rich history with this type of building. The focus of my study was from 1000, the end of the Viking era, to the mid-19th century, when the growth of the cities and the advent of more modern building techniques ended over 800 years of log and stave construction. Because the center of culture in Norway was in the valleys and along the coast until the 19th century, it was these rural areas where the finest art and craft of construction are to be found.
What first struck me when I visited the stave churches and farm buildings was their dramatic setting in the many valleys throughout Norway and how the individual church buildings and the groupings of farm buildings related to the unique environmental characteristics and functional requirements for the location and each building. Prior to this experience, my education as an architect had focused on the building design with little consideration of the site.
My travels as a student took me through many of the valleys and to a significant number of building sites. The principal building types are the stave church, constructed of vertical logs (staves) and considered Norway's most important contribution to the history of world architecture, the stue or the dwelling house, which exhibits the highest level of horizontal log construction in the world, and lofts or storage buildings which are built with a combination of logs and staves to create amazing and beautiful structures.
The buildings are thoughtfully sited and the clusters of farm buildings—with each building serving a specific function—are incredible places. However, it is the level of art and craft that each building and each piece of each building exhibits that completes the experience of studying these buildings.
50 years after my visit, I have pulled the slides from the back of a closet and added detail drawings collected from books published since my visit. I have created a presentation that illustrates the skillful melding of planning, site design, and architecture. I took great pleasure in being able to work with this same range of considerations for over 40 years at Sasaki!