Wenche Selmer renewed the tradition in timber architecture
Wenche Selmer studied building design at the Oslo National College of the Arts in 1945. In the following years she worked for several high-profile architects, among them Marcel Lods (1891–1978) in Paris, and Arnstein Arneberg (1882–1961) in Oslo. She started her own practice in 1954.
The house in Trosterudveien
Wenche was married to Jens Selmer, and the couple collaborated on a number of projects. Their own home, a timber house in Trosterudveien in Oslo, had open plan solutions, with no clear boundaries between kitchen, living room and hallway. A large sliding door of glass looking onto the garden gave the sense of being in close touch with nature. The couple was awarded Sundts Premie, a Norwegian architectural award, for the house in 1963.
Wenche and Jens Selmer further developed Norwegian building traditions. Although they often collaborated, they had their own careers and their own distinctive styles.
Modern and traditional
Wenche Selmer's work combined modern features, such as open plan design and large glass areas, with traditional building techniques. The buildings were designed to blend in with the landscape, with natural materials and adaptations to accommodate the individual plots. She was inspired by Knut Knutsen (1903–1969), who believed that a building had to have a harmonic “natural presence” in its surroundings.
To design houses simply and naturally in terms of materials, constructions, climate and surroundings has been the foundation I have built on.
Wenche Selmer in Byggekunst, 1980
Selmer says that experiences from nature taught her to distinguish between the necessary and the redundant. She would sleep outdoors on a building site to familiarise herself with the climate and terrain. Her cabins were functional and adapted to the needs and uses of the inhabitants. For example, cabins located by the sea were given large entrance spaces with room for fishing equipment. In areas where the wind could suddenly change direction, she provided multiple entrances. Selmer took advantage of local resources such as craftsmen and materials.
Selmer had a large production of small houses and cabins, and often drew two to three buildings a year. During her long career, which ran from 1953 to 1997, she left her mark on more than 120 cabins, houses and boathouses through solo and collaborative projects. As an associate professor at the School of Architecture in Oslo, she had considerable influence.
Sources (in Norwegian):
Elisabeth Tostrup. Arkitekt Wenche Selmer: Omtankens Arkitektur. Oslo: Gaidaros, 2002
Elisabeth Seip. Wenche Selmer, Norsk kunstnerleksikon, 2014 https://nkl.snl.no/Wenche_Selmer
Wenche Selmer. Byggekunst, 1980, pp. 370–373 https://arkitektur-n.no/artikler/profil-6-wenche-selmer
Byggekunst no. 4, 1965, pp. 103–104 https://www.arkitektur-n.no/prosjekter/eget-hus-i-trosterudstien-oslo
- Born: 23 May 1920, Paris.
- Associate professor at the School of Architecture from 1976, with colleagues such as Sverre Fehn and Christian Norberg-Schulz.
- Sundts Premie award in architecture 1963, together with Jens Selmer, for the house in Trosterudveien.
- Treprisen award 1969, together with Jens Selmer.
- Died: 30 May 1998, Oslo.