At the very highest point of the Norwegian Railway track, you will find the mountain village Finse. Known for its extraordinary mountain landscapes, expedition training, and by some, as the location of filming "Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back in 1979", Finse is also home to a stately hotel named Finse 1222. A testimony to the industrialization of Norway, it was first built as a mountain lodge in 1906. Offering shelter for railroad builders working on the tracks connecting the city of Bergen with the Norwegian capital Oslo, it later reopened as a hotel in 1909. Driven by both the developing traveling habits of European aristocracy at the time and word-of-mouth, it developed into quite the international hotspot.
In 2020, Snøhetta was commissioned to bring the hotel into the future, while maintaining its rich history and local traditions. The re-design of this hotel has bridged past and present Finse, and offers vast opportunities to explore and experience the magnificent nature surrounding the site.
With the goal of bridging the past and present, the Snøhetta team started by diving into the vast historic material on site, and discoveries included both exclusive design classics in the attic and plenty of photographs telling manyfold stories from activities, design, and interiors on site.
Besides nature, another protagonist in the story of Finse 1222 is a woman named Alice. A resilient and enterprising woman that was born in Britain and moved to the remote Norwegian village Finse after meeting a Norwegian merchant. After the fifth child, the merchant left her, leaving her in Finse to care for the children. Alice needed a job and looked for opportunities on-site, and after different jobs in the area showcasing both her talent and strong drive, she ended up as the hotel manager.
Developed over the decades since then, and lastly by Snøhetta's refurbishment in 2021, the hotel today exudes a down-to-earth yet exclusive feel, and welcomes an increasing number of visitors wanting to explore both the outdoors and indoors.
With classical Swiss chalet-style exteriors, the hotel interiors, on the other hand, mix luxurious British design with classic Norwegian design. This eclectic fusion is continued in Snøhetta’s work, and the new interiors are characterized by Nordic-style wooden furniture, colorful surfaces, and elegant details.
Arriving at the hotel is only possible by train. With only four arrivals per day in the winter season, it adds to the exclusive feel of something unique and exotic. A key element in renovating was also the arrival experience, including how the hotel entrance appears toward arriving visitors on the train tracks five meters away.
Ensuring a more inviting and welcoming vibe and catering for taking in the views already from the entrance was key. The new reception and lounge area are redesigned with a warm and hearty feel, with bright red and orange color palette, a fireplace, and ample space to sit down, relax and take in the views.
From the lounge, the team also extended the room, adding a broad terrace as a prolongment to the main building, with a particular railing designed based on historic images on site. With the new seating area, guests and passers-by are invited to enjoy a spot in the sun, watching both Finsevann and Hardangerjøkelen, or for concerts traditionally held in the summer season.
Walls display memories from prominent visitors throughout the year. Including the Prince of Wales, Norwegian figure skater Sonia Hennie, Hulda and Arne Garborg. Furthermore, several famous explorers have spent time at the hotel, such as Fritjof Nansen, who have done their training and preparations for their next expedition. One can easily imagine that the stories retold by regulars on-site are quite a treat.
Actively aiming to conserve and reuse as much as possible of existing materials and furniture on-site was a key element in the renovation process, from the old wooden floors beneath the carpet, to furniture classics and materials. The color palette of the interiors is inspired by a unique textile by William Morris, one of that time’s greatest textile designers, and his fabric “Bird” was discovered on old furniture found on site. One can easily imagine that the origins of textile from a British designer were brought there by the very first hotel manager, the beforementioned Alice.
The colors range from warm reds and orange to colder blue and greens. The same goes for many of the works of art decorating the hotel from previous times – the mix and contrast of warm and cold colors interact well, and are at the very core of today’s palette, creating a comfortable yet stimulating vibe.
In the dining room, floral William Morris wallpaper now covers the walls, and the room's decorative plaster ceiling was preserved and complemented with ornate brass-stemmed lamps as a nod to historic times.
By attentively adjusting and upgrading the existing building mass, only adding new elements where it was absolutely needed, historical qualities of the place were conserved, prepared for the future.
The defining element of the interior of the hotel is in fact the outdoors. Finse’s unparalleled nature attracts hikers, skiers, and explorers, as well as those who simply come to enjoy a relaxing weekend get-away. Although different, all the visitors do share a connection with nature. Large panorama windows throughout the hotel open the space up to nature, inviting it in for everyone to enjoy. Finse 1222 is located opposite one of Norway’s few remaining glaciers, Hardangerjøkulen. The interiors’ color palette and design wrap the glacier view in decorous framing.
One of the most spectacular attractions at Finse is the winter sunset turning everything blue. Experienced outside or inside, the setting is ideal for maximizing this experience.
Quite a few furniture items from the hotel's previous era were refurbished and reused. This original chair and a 2-seater bench found in the attic, represent a quite typical Norwegian craft style with wooden carvings. Refurbished with new fabrics and colors to match the color palette of the room – and the library is filled with equally historical treasures – maintained but upgraded to recreate the historical atmosphere.
An elevated experience
For visitors searching for an even more exclusive experience indoors, a few, new suites were built after elevating the rooftop of the main building and adjusting the facade. Spectacular views from both the bed, bathtub, and reclining chairs offer generous opportunities to relax and take in the landscape and the varying weather outside. The technique to lift the roof is something out of the ordinary, a tailor-made “fold” designed to ensure that the snow doesn’t stack up on the roof as it previously did.
In general, the site is placed in an area with fairly rough weather conditions, and several improvements have been made in the building mass as such, ensuring that the buildings are even more resilient to the at times harsh environment, including a new roof, facade paneling, new windows, and finally, the new balcony outside the reception area. The latter rounds up the intention and what lies at the heart of this refurbishment; welcoming everyone in and facilitating an even closer connection between people and nature.
Based on the conceptual color palette for the hotel, the hotel rooms were also redesigned, including tailormade elements for the hotel. One example is this hotel-specific blanket. Inspired by the glacier Hardangerjøkulen itself, it was designed to match both the views and ambiance on site.
Aiming to further strengthen the hotel’s identity and establish a distinct language, Snøhetta Design was also part of the Finse destination development. Again based on vast historical material on-site, including the oldest signs found for the hotel and the name of the station, a new logo and tailormade font for Finse 1222 was developed. Today, the updated visual identity for the hotel also bridges past and present and is used on the facade as well as on digital and print material, key chains, and more.