Building a New Center in Harestua Using Mass Timber

When an old sawmill site is developed into a new center for Harestua, the choice of Norwegian mass timber as the main material was a natural fit.

The Sagparken center in Harestua, when completed, will include approximately 80 apartments, two office blocks, several commercial areas, and a large grocery store. This will be a significant contribution to a new urban development in Harestua.

The first phase has already been completed, and now ground has been broken for phase 2 out of a total of 4 phases. Hille Melbye Architects have designed the new area for Sagparken Utvikling.

“The intention is to create a meeting place and a new center in Harestua. Sagparken is located where Lunner Allmenning had the storage area for planks and timber; it is situated in the middle of the village and connects the residential areas in the north and south,” says architect Bjarni Arnason of Hille Melbye Architects.

Icelandic expert on mass timber

The choice of building material came naturally on the site that was once the heart of the timber industry in the area.

“On a former sawmill site, it was a natural choice to use a lot of wood to preserve the history and character of the place,” Arnason explains.

Arnason, who moved from Iceland to Norway as an architect five years ago, is pleased to be part of Hille Melbye’s first major project with mass timber. Previously, he has designed one of the larger mass timber buildings in Iceland, Hotel Glacier Lagoon.

“In Iceland, the use of mass timber has been widespread for a long time, and I was surprised when I came to Norway to see how little this fantastic material was talked about and used, especially considering all the forests Norway has. I look forward to working more with this material in the years to come,” Arnason says.

According to Arnason, mass timber has several positive and advantageous properties, both in terms of how quickly and easily it can be assembled, and importantly, that it provides good indoor environments for residents and is CO2-neutral.

Integrated into its natural surroundings

With the forest and nature as its closest neighbors, the development at Sagparken is divided into many units so that the natural landscape can be brought in between the houses. Looking out between the buildings, one can see the surrounding forest, mountains, and water, allowing sunlight to penetrate between the buildings to the various outdoor areas and squares in the new central development. In the already completed first phase, creative solutions have been found with somewhat atypical covered walkways, where exterior staircases (walkways) also provide additional space to linger outside the apartments, acting as an extension of the apartment where one can enjoy morning coffee and greet neighbors. With large openings in the covered walkway that extend all the way down to ground level, plenty of light is let in, ensuring good daylight conditions.