Grendahuset sign

Un-Urban Experiments: Træna (2018)

Participatory community architecture 
Indoor Rooms: 20’ x 14’ x 10’, Outdoor Space: 150’ x 20’

In the winters of Northern Norway, inside the Arctic Circle, small communities are subject to months of complete darkness. They have strong community bonds that have sustained them for centuries, yet depression exacerbated by a lack of social gathering spaces is a pressing issue.

This project was an exchange of ideas between the urban and the "un-urban" — reimagining derelict spaces that can work for remote populations, far from any city. Students from New York and Scandinavia, led by the artist and other faculty, were challenged with redesigning the local Grendahus (community house). The resulting spaces, derived from intensive research and collaboration with local inhabitants, were both functional and experiential.

A communal firepit with modular seating was built outside. Inside, an abandoned storage room became a "Light Sauna" art installation, a brilliantly colored space with warm seating and full spectrum LED illumination for seasonal affective disorder. It becomes a space for mental refreshment, energizing and uplifting. Other rooms inside became a youth space and a shared reading room. The spaces are open to all, 24 hours a day, for free. The local community collaborated on design and construction, and took over the spaces as their own when the workshop ended.

This program was an exciting and rare collaboration between the School of Visual Arts (New York), Umeå School of Architecture (Sweden), the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (Norway), and the Norwegian Centre for Design & Architecture. The workshop consisted of three weeks of intense collaboration and building, that culminated in an opening event during the Trænafestivalen (

The Municipality of Træna and the Træna Artist in Residence program hosted the project, with financial support from the Norwegian Arts Council and The Nordic Culture Point.
Outdoor Fire Pit
Firepit closeup
Sun Room door
Sun Room door close-up
Nour in Sun Room
Sun Room empty
People in Sun Room
Kitchen door
3rd Space
Alice in 3rd Space
3rd Space shelves
Island mountain
View from chapel
Group meeting
Design work
Cleaning floor
Using Format