Do you find black buildings harsh, gloomy, or even foreboding? How about when their shapes are just as dramatic as their color, with rooflines as sharp as the edges of blades? Perhaps you wouldn’t consider a stark black structure that slices up into the sky the most welcoming sight, but on the edge of Norway, it’s actually quite a fitting way to greet the northern landscape.
Created by the firm sivilarkitet espen surnevik as, the PAN-cabins are a pair of rentals located along Norway’s eastern forests in an area named Finnskogen (after the Finnish immigrants who settled there in the 16th century). Just northeast of Oslo on the border with Sweden, the area is known for its beautiful scenery, skiing, hiking trails, and frequent sightings of wildlife like moose.
The small dwellings are elevated high up into the treetops to take advantage of the location, gazing out at the surrounding forests. Set on six-meter-high steel frames (about 20 feet), the structures are more like lookout towers than traditional hotel rooms, featuring striking black facades with roof tiles that resemble the scales of enormous fish or reptiles.
Just as dramatic as the cabins themselves are the spiraling staircases that reach into the air to grant access, semi-enclosed but still offering panoramic views of the landscape. The other side of each cabin has a blind facade, guaranteeing guests total privacy despite the two structures being within view of each other.
While the exteriors may feel about as warm as a cold-blooded serpent, the interiors have a homey, cozy vibe about them thanks to textural pine cladding and wool textiles. Each end of the A-frame cabins offers spacious windows to look out, too. The cabins sleep up to six people with the help of lofts and fold-out beds, and each includes a contemporary black kitchen. They’re designed for summer use, so there’s no need for wood stoves.
Architect Espen Surnevik, a professor at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, created the cabins for clients Kristian Rostad and Christine Mowinckel. He says Tove Jansson’s Moomin books are one of his main inspirations for the bridge in particular. The Moomins are a family of fairytale-like characters resembling white hippopotamuses living in a cold, snowy Nordic setting.
Surnevik adds: “For me, it represents a genuine feeling of how the Nordic individual relates to the long distances between settlements in rural Scandinavia, the loneliness, the dark winters, and the cold climate. Jansson puts words and illustrations to the illusions that are created inside the mind, of fear and the warm security that occurs in us all when in contact with the bare elements of the Nordic nature.”
“The cabins are made as an intuitive response to the client’s will and vision of having unique architecture with an almost mythological link to the place, landscape, and Nordic forests. The cabins were planned with retreat-like qualities that offer the possibility for a comfortable stay all alone in the middle of the wild nature of Norway.”