SALT architecture and art festival celebrates the Arctic landscape

pyramid housing
SALT’s co-founders invited Norwegian practice Rintala Eggertsson Architects to create three structures for the festival on the island of Sandhornøya, including a pyramid housing 'the world’s biggest sauna'.
(Image credit: Gunnar Holmstad)

A remote island in the Arctic Circle may seem an unlikely destination for an architecture and art festival. But, for visitors to SALT - a nomadic event (opens in new tab) inspired by the 'movement of animals and seasonal rhythms' of the Arctic - the journey is all part of the experience. When we approached rugged Sandhornøya by boat last week, we were met by a surprising sight. Its normally deserted stretch of beach was teeming with people and a series of angular structures stood tall against the dark silhouette of the mountains. Travellers had flocked from far and wide for the festival's opening weekend, set in this extraordinarily beautiful landscape.

SALT's co-founders Erlend Mogard-Larsen and curator Helga-Marie Nordby spent two years exploring Norway's northern regions, before they found this wild stretch of beach. Here, they invited Norwegian practice Rintala Eggertsson Architects to create three structures. These would act as the frameworks for a year-long programme of art projects, concerts, plays, readings and culinary experiences.

Rintala Eggertsson Architects drew inspiration from fiskehjell (ancient fish racks, used for drying cod) for their 'Arctic pyramids'. Says Mogard-Larsen, 'It's hard to compete with the nature. [The architects'] expression reminds us of our role in the landscape, and introduces something new and relevant into this epic scene.'

Visitors move between these structures to experience film, sample local seasonal food and beer and enjoy the world's largest sauna. For our first night on the island, chef Svein Kristian Malin rustled up a three-course feast, including smoked whale meat, reindeer stew and cheese from a farm on the nearby island.

The most impressive of Rintala Eggertsson's structures is the landscape for Chinese artist Yang Fudong's new site-specific film installation. Fudong has created eight films, screened on box-like structures. His hypnotic works eschew sound, instead using landscape to evoke a tale. 'I think about how to tell a narrative by using not people speaking so much, but how the wind tells a narrative, or how trees tell a narrative,' he says. 'It's a feeling of yesterday, but it's actually tomorrow.' Fudong explores ancient traditions, bringing them into the present. Adds Nordby: 'There is something similar in the way he is thinking about his filmmaking and the way we're thinking about this project.'

Nordby doesn't know how long Rintala Eggertsson's structures - which touch lightly on the landscape and can be easily transported to new locations - will survive the extreme storms during the winter months of their island residency. But that is part of the point. Their creations are a reminder of the daily battle against the elements that the 400 inhabitants of Sandhornøya face.
 
Alongside Rintala Eggertsson's designs are a series of tent-like volumes, conceived by local artist and architect Joar Nango - a member of the indigenous Sami people - in which visitors can stay. Based on Sami architectural practices, each 'Njalla' has a glass roof and is built on wooden skis, to allow the inhabitant to pull their lodging around the beach to find the perfect spot from which to experience the midnight sun or northern lights.
 
Mogard-Larsen and Nordby have also commissioned international architectural students to create three additional wood structures, siida, which sit on the furthest point of the beach and can also accommodate visitors to the festival. Or, they can sleep like we did on our final evening, on reindeer mattresses beneath the stars. Right on cue, the Aurora Borealis put on a dazzling display across the sky.
 
SALT will remain in situ until 6 September 2015, with the second part of the year's programme of performances, art installations and discussions raising questions about the effects of climate change and the exploitation of the region's resources. 'Few people are fully engaged with these important topics, so we are looking to approach it differently, informing them through visualisation and experience,' says Nordby. When its sojourn on Sandhornøya is over, the nomadic festival will continue on its eight-year journey across the northernmost parts of our planet, stopping off in regions like Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Alaska.

Visitors reach the island by boat from the town of Bodø

Visitors reach the island by boat from the town of Bodø

(Image credit: press)

Rintala Eggertsson's structures act as the frameworks

Rintala Eggertsson's structures act as the frameworks for a year-long programme of art projects, concerts, plays, readings and culinary experiences.

(Image credit: Gunnar Holmstad)

Their designs stand out against the dark silhouettes of the mountains

Their designs stand out against the dark silhouettes of the mountains...

(Image credit: press)

where eagles are known to nest in the vertical rock face

...where eagles are known to nest in the vertical rock face

(Image credit: press)

chef Svein Kristian Malin

For our first night on the island, chef Svein Kristian Malin rustled up a three-course feast, including smoked whale meat, reindeer stew and cheese from a farm on the nearby island.

(Image credit: Kristian Sivertsen)

Farmer Oddbjørn Olsen shows off his award-winning red cheese 

Farmer Oddbjørn Olsen shows off his award-winning red cheese

(Image credit: press)

Locals sell salt cod to the festival goers on the beach. The fish once dried, is very tough, and is hammered with a mallet, to loosen the flesh - it can then be pulled into strips and eaten. The fish has a woody texture, but is surprisingly tasty

Locals sell salt cod to the festival goers on the beach. The fish once dried, is very tough, and is hammered with a mallet, to loosen the flesh - it can then be pulled into strips and eaten. The fish has a woody texture, but is surprisingly tasty

(Image credit: press)

Rintala Eggertsson drew inspiration from fiskehjell (ancient fish racks, used for drying cod) for his 'Arctic pyramids'. Says SALT co-founder Erlend Mogard-Larsen: 'It's hard to compete with the nature. [Rintala Eggertsson's] expression reminds us of our role in the landscape, and introduces something new and relevant into this epic scene'

Rintala Eggertsson drew inspiration from fiskehjell (ancient fish racks, used for drying cod) for his 'Arctic pyramids'. Says SALT co-founder Erlend Mogard-Larsen: 'It's hard to compete with the nature. [Rintala Eggertsson's] expression reminds us of our role in the landscape, and introduces something new and relevant into this epic scene'

(Image credit: press)

Strong shadows fall across Rintala Eggertsson’s largest pyramid structure, where Chinese artist Yang Fudong’s site-specific film is being screened across eight separate cabins

Strong shadows fall across Rintala Eggertsson’s largest pyramid structure, where Chinese artist Yang Fudong’s site-specific film is being screened across eight separate cabins

(Image credit: press)

Crowds of visitors explore Fudong’s film installation during the opening night

Crowds of visitors explore Fudong’s film installation during the opening night.

(Image credit: Gunnar Holmstad)

The artist filmed on the beaches of Sandhornøya over two weeks, using local dancers as characters in his work

The artist filmed on the beaches of Sandhornøya over two weeks, using local dancers as characters in his work.

(Image credit: Gunnar Holmstad)

A still from Fudong’s site-specific film installation, entitled 'The Light That I Feel'

A still from Fudong’s site-specific film installation, entitled 'The Light That I Feel'

(Image credit: press)

Fudong researched archive photographs of local people from the Nordland country to inspire his narrative

Fudong researched archive photographs of local people from the Nordland country to inspire his narrative

(Image credit: press)

The Chinese artist's hypnotic works eschew sound, instead using landscape to evoke a tale. 'I think about how to tell a narrative by using not people speaking so much, but how the wind tells a narrative, or how trees tell a narrative,' he says. 'It's a feeling of yesterday, but it's actually tomorrow.

The Chinese artist's hypnotic works eschew sound, instead using landscape to evoke a tale. 'I think about how to tell a narrative by using not people speaking so much, but how the wind tells a narrative, or how trees tell a narrative,' he says. 'It's a feeling of yesterday, but it's actually tomorrow.'

(Image credit: press)

Fudong’s grand, slow and poetic cinematic language fits beautifully within the natural Arctic scenery

Fudong’s grand, slow and poetic cinematic language fits beautifully within the natural Arctic scenery.

(Image credit: TBC)

His installation will be particularly powerful in the darker winter months

His installation will be particularly powerful in the darker winter months.

(Image credit: Gunnar Holmstad)

Visitors take in the sunset outside of the second of Rintala Eggertsson's structure, the Gildenhallen, while listening to a music programme, featuring Alabama musician Lonnie Holley, and Norwegians finest, the Arctic Symphonic Orchestra, Biosphere and Slagr

Visitors take in the sunset outside of the second of Rintala Eggertsson's structure, the Gildenhallen, while listening to a music programme, featuring Alabama musician Lonnie Holley, and Norwegians finest, the Arctic Symphonic Orchestra, Biosphere and Slagr.

(Image credit: Gunnar Holmstad)

Mogard-Larsen and Nordby have also commissioned international architectural students to create three additional wood structures, siida, which sit on the furthest point of the beach and can accommodate visitors to the festival

Mogard-Larsen and Nordby have also commissioned international architectural students to create three additional wood structures, siida, which sit on the furthest point of the beach and can accommodate visitors to the festival

(Image credit: press)

The wood structures, built from locally sourced pine, offer viewports for surveying the scenery

The wood structures, built from locally sourced pine, offer viewports for surveying the scenery

(Image credit: press)

The interiors of the cabins

The interiors of the cabins

(Image credit: press)

These modern follies can also house visitors to the festival for a night or two under the stars

These modern follies can also house visitors to the festival for a night or two under the stars

(Image credit: press)

Banquets of seasonal food are served in the large wigwams

Banquets of seasonal food are served in the large wigwams at the foot of the mountains, overlooking the beaches at Sandhornøya.

(Image credit: Marte Antonsen)

Our bed for the final night. Artist and architect Joar Nango has built a number of shelters for visitors to stay in based on traditional Sami storage houses called njalla. These are kitted out with two beds, with reindeer skins for mattresses, a wood burner and a glass ceiling

Our bed for the final night. Artist and architect Joar Nango has built a number of shelters for visitors to stay in based on traditional Sami storage houses called njalla. These are kitted out with two beds, with reindeer skins for mattresses, a wood burner and a glass ceiling

(Image credit: press)

Visitors to the festival have the chance to explore neighbouring islands

Visitors to the festival have the chance to explore neighbouring islands. Pictured is a traditional 19th century merchant house at one of the wealthiest trading posts in northern Norway, on the island of Kjerringøy

(Image credit: press)

A traditional fishing boat, relating to the old Viking longships, is stored in the boathouse at the Old Trading Post on Kjerringøy, a short boat ride from Sandhornøya

A traditional fishing boat, relating to the old Viking longships, is stored in the boathouse at the Old Trading Post on Kjerringøy, a short boat ride from Sandhornøya

(Image credit: press)

Technical plans hang on the walls of Ulk Mikalsen’s workshop, a traditional builder of Nordland boats

Technical plans hang on the walls of Ulk Mikalsen’s workshop, a traditional builder of Nordland boats

(Image credit: press)

The merchant houses trade great numbers of fish between Nordland and Bergen

The merchant houses trade great numbers of fish between Nordland and Bergen

(Image credit: press)