By the river in the small town of Skien in Norway, Snøhetta has designed a climbing center in timber.
The ambition is to innovate and explore the use of wood in the sports industry and deliver on several sustainability goals by choosing timber as the main material, reducing area use, and ensuring energy efficiency. The climbing center facilitates physical activity for all ages and is a meeting place where children and adults gather around a common activity. Høyt Under Taket in Skien is also collaborating with the non-profit organization Tyrilistiftelsen for recruitment and job training for people in treatment for substance abuse.
The center is size medium with a total size of approx. 1500m2 and a construction height of 15 meters, including a mezzanine for bouldering.
The building is based on the idea of the cave, of being immersed in timber from walls to ceiling. As a portal to a world that one naturally wants to explore further, the cave typically provides protection from the elements and has historically been both a residence and a meeting place. In the cave, the traditional distinction between ceiling and wall is blurred. Hence, the exposed wood is used extensively throughout the building to achieve a lightness and a feeling of being surrounded by natural materials, mimicking the experience of climbing inside a real cave – even getting a sense of being in nature.
The fact that the materials breathe is also very appropriate in a building made for sport and activity. Large glass surfaces bring natural light into the building, providing extra airiness and a connection to nature. The same large surfaces allow passers-by to catch a glimpse of the activity inside, making the building an inviting landmark that inspires people to stop by and explore.
The material choice offers an estimated 30% lower CO2 footprint compared to alternative conventional building methods, and energy efficiency in operations provides both environmental and cost benefits. Building with wood allows for a larger proportion to be prefabricated in places other than the construction site. This reduces the number and size of deliveries to the construction site, meaning less noise, better accessibility, and air quality as well as savings in fuel. As a light material, timber is also suitable for shallow foundations, and therefore reduces the need for piling. The low weight allows components to be lifted near or over existing buildings, simplifying the construction process and enabling the development of small and narrow urban plots.
Together with the client Betonmast and partners, Snøhetta believes that the learnings from this process can be beneficial for further development.
The project is supported by Innovation Norway.