15. März 2020
A historic hub of creativity on Norway’s western coast
In the 1760s, the merchant and philanthropist Alexander Kaae bequeathed 16,000 rigsdaler for the construction of a building in the centre of Bergen, intended to provide a restful retreat for individuals who had fallen on hard times. Fast forward 250 years, and his legacy lives on, albeit with a slightly modified remit…
With only 18 bedrooms, Villa Terminus is the smallest hotel in the hyperlocal hotel group De Bergenske, a family-run collection of five remarkable – and remarkably different – historic properties all in the heart of the city. Now, freshly refurbished and sensitively rejuvenated by renowned Swedish architecture and design firm Claesson Koivisto Rune, Villa Terminus offers guests a finely balanced fusion of Bergen’s history, Norwegian culture and iconic mid-century and modern-day design.
The five De Bergenske hotels are being commemorated in a series of books by design author Max Fraser, exploring each property’s unique history and the part it plays in the story of modern Bergen. Villa Terminus’ book is the first to roll off the presses – soon to be followed by volumes for sister hotels Bergen Børs and Zander K.
Travels in time
With a restrained late-Baroque exterior, and an interior design language that stretches from the 1950s to the present day, Villa Terminus seems to exist in several time periods at once. The mix-up of time fitted us well since we were neither recreating the antiquarian nor building a contemporary statement. By choosing elements of furniture, fittings and colours from different eras – an ancient finish, a mid-century modern vintage accessory here, a contemporary piece of furniture there – the concept of time has surprisingly vanished, says Eero Koivisto, Villa Terminus architect.
Art and craft
For their initial inspiration, however, Claesson Koivisto Rune looked not to the realm of design but to the world of art – specifically the domestic paintings of 19th-century Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi, the great interiors artist known for creating works with an air of tranquillity and clear soft light that was quintessentially Scandinavian, as architect Mårten Claesson puts it.
The way sunlight plays upon the chalk-toned bedroom walls, the natural material palette, and the clear appreciation for the crafted and hand- made exhibited in the furniture and fittings are all designed to imbue Villa Terminus with the soothingly muted mystery of a Hammershøi oil painting. The reason for choosing a number of interior pieces from the mid- 19th century was because it was the last period when the handcrafted was strong in Scandinavia. And, if anything, handcrafted is something the entire building is, adds Ola Rune, architect.
The essence of Bergen
Barring the odd discreet skylight and the Arne Jacobsen lamps, there’s little exterior evidence of the architect’s intervention – the modest grandeur of the 17th-century villa survives intact. Inside Villa Terminus, is a different story.
As guests meander through the hotel – passing through an array of restful living areas, a sedate library, filled with works by Norwegian novelists and tomes of Bergenser history, and a genial modern kitchen – they encounter a host of vintage mid-century pieces, all handpicked by the architects and 20th-century design specialist Thomas Ekström of Stockholmmodern. Alongside, the hotel features furniture and objects by some of the most celebrated names in international design today – including Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, David Chipperfield, Antonio Citterio, Ilse Crawford, Andreas Engesvik, Josef Frank, Sir Kenneth Grange, Konstantin Grcic, Jasper Morrison, Patrick Norguet, Russell Pinch, Samuel Wilkinson, Terence Woodgate and many more.
In this respect, a stay at Villa Terminus is akin to spending the night in an unusually comfortable design museum – highly appropriate, given Bergen’s importance on the contemporary Norwegian design scene. Thanks to the presence of the prestigious Bergen Academy of Art & Design, and a huge number of its students settling here to set up their studios after graduation, Norway’s second city punches well above its weight in the design arena. With the arrival of Villa Terminus, it may just have landed the knockout blow.
Images: Courtesy of the Architects
Design: Claesson Koivisto Rune Architects