Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Henningsvær, the town that cod built (TorskFisk)
Along the steep coasts of the Lofoten Island, fishing communities were carved out of inlets where existence, much like this structure, tenuously grip. Now the archipelago draws as much artists and tourists as it does fishermen. The gentle quality of its northern light and its hardscrabble past create an atmosphere of a contradictory air. The narrow chain of Islands and the traces of a way of life here are quintessentially coastal and Norwegian. Boathouses, and structures of all types possess an honest
ad-hoc quality that is almost Modern in their material practicality. Some of the buildings have gradually expanded, lumbering along aggregating and shedding material; never really becoming complete. In these working buildings, the unfinished surfaces and additions project sense of continued possibility, even though the fishing fleets have long since modernized.
In this manner, built works of a certain organization and tactile approach can be inherently vibrant, holding traces of past activity.
The character of these raised boat houses certainly are a product of their time and place. In the sketch above, the wooden piers come down to meet the rocky ground each at their own imperfect and hand-measured height. Had dynamite been available on the islands, would it have been cheaper to blast away and make all the members of uniform, the geometries forever perfect and taught?
The lateral reinforcement seen here in the angled members are playfully irregular, if slightly unstable. Of course they are inefficient, but their continued existence they speak to the stewardship of their inhabitants. Where the form sags, it is sured-up by diagonal struts in an as-needed approach.
The uneven rocks, rising tides and ice warp the vertical piers to create horizontal stress and an uneven platform. These forces are then resolved by placing an opposing diagonal beam within the framework in a process that is the product of a relationship that is call and response.
While we would not build in that manner today, much can be taken from the variegated material and the responsive, asymmetrical balance of these structures. In their imperfect angles and clustered densities, the piers appear to truly hunker up against the earth to shed the sea and wind.