Sea villa

A Canadian architect designs curves capable of taming the wind

Canadian architect Todd Saunders was taming the Norwegian wind when he designed the large contemporary curve that defines a house called Villa AT.

“It’s a very windy place. You can have a great day in Norway, but it can be ruined by the wind, so we wanted to use the building to protect the outdoor space,” says Saunders, who also designed the famous Fogo Island Inn, on the sea of the North Atlantic, in Newfoundland.

The 3,336 square feet. The Norwegian house in Søgne, overlooking the North Sea and about 340 km south of the capital Oslo, seems to float above its stony foundation. In addition to creating shelter, the house attracts lots of sunlight and offers spectacular views of the shoreline.

“When you walk out of your room in the morning or walk into your room at night, you can look out over the ocean,” Saunders says. “When parents walk into their bedroom, it faces directly onto the ocean. A solid back wall provides privacy.

The freestanding marble fireplace extends the sea view through the open plan living, dining and kitchen areas.

The interior design of Villa AT brings together the living room, kitchen and dining room on one side and the bedrooms on the other. A hobby/media room separates the master bedroom from the others. There is also a separate annex for the parents with a living room, an open-plan kitchen, a double bedroom and a bathroom. In addition, there is a heated outdoor swimming pool.

Architect Todd Saunders says he first tried using curved triple-glazed glass after seeing it produced in a factory in Portugal.

Building materials include curved glass, spruce siding and oak floors. The house has added insulation in the walls and roof as well as triple glazed windows. Completed in 2018, Villa AT took five years to design and build.

Todd Saunders, Principal of Saunders Architecture, Bergen, Norway, answers some questions about Villa AT:

What inspired your design for the home?

It is a beautiful site and the owners actually bought a cabin there and could have easily lived there – but there was no covered outdoor space. Two things they needed were an annex where the grandparents live, and a view from wherever they are in the main house.

How did you build to maximize sunlight throughout the seasons?

We generally use a 3D digital model which allows us to calculate it. We can put an object on the site, put a date — like June 21 at 3 p.m. — and ask where the shadows are. And we can show you exactly where they are.

It helps if residents have lived in a previous house on the site. They know in their body where they want to wake up, where they want to sit outside and drink coffee.

Villa AT's master bedroom opens onto the North Sea coast while a solid back wall provides privacy.

You have curved walls and curved glass. What’s it like to work without straight lines?

Curved walls are quite easy, you cut small curves in plywood. It’s like a model. But it was the first time we made curved glass. After visiting a factory in Portugal that made triple pane curved glass, we wanted to try it out. It makes a nice soft touch on the house which I really appreciate.

Why youdoes the house seem to float?

The original idea was to build the foundation 30 centimeters, then put the house on it, but sloping on top – like a plinth. Then we put in the foundations and built the house, like a skirt. And it looks like it’s hanging in the air.

A glass wall borders the hallway leading to the bedrooms. "When you step out of your room in the morning or enter your room in the evening, you can watch the ocean," said Saunders.

What have been your biggest challenges at home?

I was trying to work with a young architect, and it was quite difficult. I walked into the studio and started making models, then cracked the code, photocopied the model and it was a great picture.

A little challenge was with the municipality not letting us build the annex — said the roof of the annex had to be attached to the house. So we made a covered entrance (on the annex) and extended it to the house.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor to The Star. Contact her at [email protected]