Twenty years ago, first efforts were being made to start the revitalisation of an impressive industrial plant in the small town of Larvik in southern Norway. Its owner, Treschow-Fritzøe, was looking for the perfect partners for this project in the area and found them in the architects PV arkitekter, the tinsmith company Herman Nilsen & Sønner and the IT company ABAX. Since then, Larvik has one foot in the future. For Larvik’s inhabitants, this meant new workplaces and charming rooms on the premises of Fritzøe Mølle, while a black PREFA aluminium façade is contributing to the local colour.
Black like larvikite, like liquorice, like fjords, deep water and like the surface of the irregularly structured PREFA FX.12 façade panels or a Prefalz façade system with a P.10 black colour surface? In the changing light of the coastal town Larvik, black can take on different shades depending on the time of day. It turns gold brown at dusk and just after sunrise, you could say that what was used for the façade of the former industrial mill Fritzøe Mølle on Hammerdalen right in the small town of Larvik takes on a juniper blue hue. PV arkitekter, Herman Nilsen & Sønner and the client Treschow-Fritzøe have been revitalising the premises for years, both to contribute to the town’s vibe and secure workplaces for the future. Instead of sticking too closely to theory, the resulting collage of old and new shows what building culture practice can mean.
“If I had not started to study law, I would never have become and architect.” Kjetil Lønnebakke Tennebø’ssense of humour makes him likeable. After breaking off his law studies out of boredom, he began to studyarchitecture in Trondheim. He also told us about how he was handed a roll of paper in his first semester andhad to draw. Lønnebakke Tennebø is a partner at PV arkitekter and still draws a lot today, but there areother aspects that are far more important to him in the Fritzøe Mølle project: “It is about tackling the job,about building for your own town and about a longterm building culture.”Fritzøe Mølle is not a simple building, it is an old industrial site from the 16th and 19th century. It was temporarily in royal possession and is now being managed and gradually converted by Norway’s oldest company. PV arkitekter have been commissioned since 1997 and decided to move their office right on the premises very early on to better organise the building process. At the time, there was only an old silversmith on the site. Lønnebakke Tennebø mentions that they looked at the vacancies every day “and their potentials and problems made us creative.” Instead of a purely structural restoration, the functional and economic new development of the work location that has always been essential for Larvik became an important topic.
BUILDING FOR THE TOWN
“There was a need for people with local networks that would take over the development process. As an international star, you would not have stood a chance.” Tinsmith Linnerud of Herman Nilsen & Sønner, architect Tennebø and Morten Hellner of Treschow-Fritzøe all agree on this. Only a few inhabitants of Larvik were not always completely convinced by what was happening on the peri-urban industrial wasteland. Therefore, there was and still is a lot of talk about the old mill, which still has open spatial resources in the future from an urban planning perspective. The project stands for the town’s adaptability. ABAX, a young, dynamic company that offers technical services relating to the Internet of Things, stayed in Larvik because of Fritzøe Mølle. The company contributed unconventional ideas to the planning process from an early point onwards and uses architecture as its showcase. Today, more people than ever are working on the site and Fritzøe Mølle has become the motor of Larvik’s public life.
CONTINUING TO BUILD WITH CONTRASTS
The architects realised the concept of continuing to build and developing in form and material. The FX.12 façade panels and the linear Prefalz façade in P.10 black reflect this idea, as they present a traditional material as an industrially developed system. Resembling a hood, the new façade extends beyond the old brick walls at the south side of the mill. With a clear edge, a slanted cut of the new façade, the architects increase the contrast between old and new building components. For instance, the historic brick walls remain visible through windows in the new façade.
To Kjetil Lønnebakke Tennebø, “it looks like the old building is coming out of the new one.” The historic construction phases of the mill should still remain readable in their form and be juxtaposed with contemporary constructions in a respectful way. At the north side, this can be seen even more clearly, as several buildings were added instead of a compact building volume. These were covered with a dark Prefalz façade system. The protruding angular standing seams and their shadow lines draw the viewer’s gaze upward. As opposed to the FX.12 façade panels, the Prefalz façade is not structured – another contrast that strengthens the impression of an architectural collage in the overall structure.
TRUST THROUGH COOPERATION
Tinsmith Linnerud states that “the conversion ofFritzøe Mølle is spectacular.” It is the first building yousee when you turn off the highway from Oslo to Larvik.Linnerud – approximately in his mid-fifties, tan skin,sneakers and a big grin – is standing in his workshop,a 1.500 m2 large hall with heavy machinery and severalstorage shelves for mounting accessories and gutters.Various metals are bent, rounded, stamped, punchedand folded here. “Machine work and manual workcomplement each other, as not everything a tinsmithdoes can be done with machinery,” as Linnerud tellsus. Together with his brother, he runs the companyHerman Nilsen & Sønner in the third generation. Theyplace great value on quality and a fixed team of craftspeoplewhose skills they can precisely assess. HermanNilsen & Sønner like to build with the same architectsand clients for similar reasons. “That would be theprivilege of our small city,” as Bjarne Linnerud says. Inthe course of their cooperation, something like friendshipand trust develops over all the years. According toLinnerud, it is what makes you storm-proof.
Treschow-Fritzøe, PV arkitekter and Herman Nilsen &Sønner had collaborated several times before workingon the mill. Thomas Nilsen from PREFA Norway joinedthe team and introduced the black FX.12 façade panelswith a P.10 surface to the project. They are perfectfor Norway, not only in visual terms: The sustainableimage of aluminium, which can be recycled withoutlosses, counts in a city like Larvik. Located between adense forest and rugged coastal rocks, the people herehave been living with the sea and nature in one wayor another for centuries. The fact that 80% of the carsthat were bought in Norway this year are electric carsshows how much Norwegians value their relationshipwith natural resources. In Norway, it surely is not easyto ignore a responsible approach to the environment.Quite the contrary: With developments that take themany layers of sustainability into account, you cangain a foothold in the architectural scene of Larvik.