A woman sitting at the drawing table in a cabin
Wenche Selmer at the drawing table in the cabin on Beltesholmen
Photo: Jens Selmer

The National Museum is seeking contributions for a conference on the cabin as architectural project, building task and social phenomenon in the post-war period. The conference is related to a major exhibition about the Norwegian architect Wenche Selmer (1920-1998), scheduled for 2026.

Wenche Selmer had a lifelong interest in what she called "the small wooden house" as a typology. Cabins, both in the mountains and along the coast, make up the core of her production, and the knowledge gained from these influenced her detached houses in more urban areas.

For the conference, we invite contributions that contextualize and discuss Wenche Selmer’s work by examining the cabin as both a historical and contemporary, Norwegian and international phenomenon. Both architectural history, cultural history, socio-economic, and anthropological perspectives are of interest.

Cabin history

Photo: Jens Selmer

The simple cabin, or holiday home, was a special building task for post-war architects in Norway. The cabin has a small, straightforward spatial design and provided architects with the freedom to cultivate the relationship between building, plot, and landscape, free from urban disturbances.

For many, the cabin symbolizes established holiday plans and ritual breaks from everyday life, with close-to-nature experiences and a simpler lifestyle. Paradoxically, this longing for nature led to large-scale interventions in natural areas in much of the Nordic region, where coastal zones and mountain areas were transformed from natural landscapes to cabin fields, requiring enormous infrastructures. This is one of the many paradoxes of the cabin, straddling the line between modernity and retrospection, between modesty and exclusivity.

Cabin architecture

Wenche Selmer can be seen as the great cabin architect in Norway in the post-war period, and her cabins, often designed together with her husband Jens Selmer, encapsulate this duality. They have a recognizable design, often with a traditional expression in roof form, facade, and cladding. Simultaneously, the plans are clearly modernist. The cabins are modest, often without running water, resource-efficient, and with a minimal footprint. At the same time, they are an exclusive phenomenon, located in attractive sites, in some cases on private islands.

Possible topics include:

  • How new ideals and ideas in planning and infrastructure have influenced holiday home development.
  • Other forms of modernism, such as Selmer's cabins designed with modernist plans but featuring traditionalist expressions in their facades.
  • Cabin culture, cabin life, and leisure culture.
  • Cabin history in the Nordic countries in general, or specifically about Selmer and the so-called "Knutsen School".
  • The cabin from a sustainability perspective, including current debates on humans and nature, such as posthumanism, the Anthropocene, and degrowth.
  • Repetitions and systems: prefabricated cabins, type cabins, building systems.
  • The role of female architects in post-war architectural culture. What building tasks did women undertake, and how did this shape the perception of female architects, both in general and Wenche Selmer in particular?
  • Spouses and colleagues. How does collaboration between architect couples influence design and issues of ownership and signature, and how do they manage the relationship between the familial and professional?


Submit an abstract with a title and description of no more than 300 words to: selmer@nasjonalmuseet.no 

The deadline for abstracts is 9 September 2024. 

Please include the name of the proposer, position, and workplace.

Each presentation will last 20 minutes, and it is possible to speak in Scandinavian languages or English.

It is a requirement that you can participate in person.

Important Dates

09.09.24: Deadline to submit abstracts

04.10.24: Feedback to submitters

04.02.25: Deadline to submit PowerPoint presentations

25.02.25: Conference day

The contributions will be evaluated by a committee consisting of representatives from the National Museum and Henriette Steiner, PhD, Associate professor in landscape architecture and planning at the University of Copenhagen.


Contact selmer@nasjonalmuseet.no