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Meet the Friends – Elisabeth Tostrup

Elisabeth Tostrup is Emerita Professor of Architecture at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Norway – and a Friend of Iconic Houses. A practising architect for many years, she is also an experienced researcher who received her doctorate in 1996 for the thesis Architecture and Rhetoric: Text and Design in Architectural Competitions, Oslo 1939 –1990. Her writings include the books Norwegian Wood: The Thoughtful Architecture of Wenche Selmer (2006), and Planetveien 12: The Korsmo House – A Scandinavian Icon (2014).

What’s your relationship with iconic houses?
Ever since I started my studies in architecture half a century ago, iconic houses have stuck in my memory – not only their image, but especially the in situ experience: their spatial quality, their dimensions, materials and structures, the light, the smells and even the temperatures. These real experiences are often stunningly intense compared with the idea you have formed in your mind based on presentations in books and journals. Quite often the dimensions are smaller, strikingly physical, and very human.

Do you have a favourite house?
I have to say the Korsmo house in Oslo, which was the subject of my last book. The Norwegian architect and CIAM member Arne Korsmo designed the house for himself and his wife, the renowned enamel artist Grete Prytz Korsmo (later Kittelsen), between 1952 and 1955. The house is fascinating because, on the one hand, it displays an apparently simple modular construction in plain materials, owing to the strict regulations of the post-war reconstruction period, while on the other hand it has a rich and unique spatial atmosphere thanks to the use of inventive furnishings, colours, and various translucent and transparent materials.

What kind of house do you live in, and what appeals to you most about your home?
I live in two places. The flat where I spend most of the year is in a six-storey house from 1936, quite centrally located in Oslo. It’s a quality functionalist building. I did some refurbishing in the late 1980s, and plan to do some renovations again. The location is excellent: I can walk to the city centre, theatres and concerts. I can also take the tram to the hills where we go skiing, or cycle ten minutes to my rowing club on the Oslo fjord. My summerhouse on the south coast of Norway, a small wooden construction built in 2010, offers more direct contact with nature, with the sea and sky.

What role would you like Iconic Houses to play?

I hope it will continue to vitalise the worldwide network of iconic houses. We have so much to learn from each other, not least how best to present these treasures to students and to the public in general. Iconic houses are important in architectural education and in our understanding of architecture. Perhaps the residential nature of these houses makes it easier for us to identify with them, and thus gain a deeper knowledge of architectural qualities.

Which 21st-century Norwegian house should become an Iconic House, and why?
House Bøe/Møller, built between 2011 and 2014 by the architect Knut Hjeltnes near Oslo, is rather introverted due to the site, which offers no view. Instead, the attention is directed towards the six small atriums (some covered), a beautiful pine tree and an 8-m-deep stretch of maple and birch. Once inside the house, the spatial sequences offer beautiful views, with an amazing light that enters from different directions, including the skylights. The orchestration of materials and the craftsmanship are outstanding.

What are you working on now?
I am working on an article for the 14th Docomomo International conference in Lisbon in September 2016. It deals with the adaptive re-use of the Korsmo house in Oslo. Protected by law, the 1950s house needed repairs and some adaptations to make it suitable for the family life of a new owner with children.


Korsmo House, seen from the garden, 1955, Oslo Norway. Photo: Finn Arne Johannessen



Korsmo House living room, 1955, Oslo Norway. Photo: Ane Hjort Guttu



The Bøe/Møller House, Knut Hjeltnes 2011-’14, Bærum, Norway. Photo: Knut Hjeltnes



The living room of the Bøe/Møller House, Knut Hjeltnes 2011-’14, Bærum, Norway. Photo: Annette Andersen



Publication date 11 February 2016