Urnes World Heritage Visitor Centre


Djernes & Bell's entry to the Urnes World Heritage Visitor centre Connectedness, Context & Craft proposes to weave visitors through the UNESCO landscape by connecting built cultures, landscape traditions, local ecology and fables across a deep-time journey.

Simple vernacular building crafts are re-interpreted to emphasize regenerative and restorative ecological and material practices. The building is inspired by the 1000 years of tradition and theology communicated through the Urnes Stave Chuch, one of the oldest standing Stave Church's in Norway. It invites humans and more than human visitors to feel at home in its stacked stone foundations, timber shingle facade and local slate roof. These details allow for patination, animal habitat creation and maintenance as a ritual in passing down building crafts traditions.

Time, Timber & Traditions
Set on slopes of one of the world's oldest glacial landscapes, these ancient minerals and sediments from the beginning of the ice-age frame are the start of the beginning of a richness of life, biodiversity, beauty and mythology which continues today. It is this geologic time perspective on life and balance in nature that can be read through the timber traditions preserved in the Urnes Stave Church. The new visitor center aims to look backwards and forwards with deep-time ambitions and hopes to inspire reciprocity between nature and culture.

Mythology & The Material
Mythological creatures from ancient maps and modern Urnes fables are woven into the building as well as local grazing farm animals, bats and birds are given habitat in the buildings eaves, and outermost cladding layer. Microscopic and moss life are celebrated in the no-dig strategy and vernacular Norwegian inspired stacked stone foundation system.

A Nave for Nature
Church-like proportions are made as accessible and as inviting as hiker's shelters. the building invites foreign travelers as well as local residents across all ages (and species) to take refuge in its lofty vestibule and enjoy the aspect over the majestic fjord, make use of the community and creative workshops or enjoy local delicacies at the farm-to-table cafe.

' We were inspired by the Northern portal at Urnes Stave Church, and its pre Christian timber-carving which represent some of the oldest surviving timber craft in Europe and how this depicted an intertwined multi-species being, this sited in one of the oldest landscapes we know creates a very powerful image of the interconnectedness and beauty of life. It is precisely this life and long time perspective we wish to celebrate and preserve by seeking new regenerative building cultures based on local materials and traditions.'
- Justine Bell, Partner Djernes & Bell