A building with individual rooms distributed throughout, but connected physically as well as visually thanks to a continuous facade design and the materials used: When leading Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto designed this building, he drew inspiration and creative force from the context.

Further west, Norwegian company Reiulf Ramstad Architekter is known for projects that exemplify how rural or urban contexts can shape a company's work and determine the built form. Recently awarded ‘Firm of the Year’ at the Architizer A+ Awards, the Oslo-based studio has accomplished many projects, borne from an almost symbolic simplicity in the course of its 20-year existence. A common thread that runs through every design and project is a deep-seated engagement with the location where the building will eventually be rooted.

Reiulf Ramstad defines form as an interplay of individual details and design factors rather than something that can be made; where the architect has to assemble all the parts to create a perceived whole. For instance, the Split View Mountain Lodge from 2013, located in the south Norwegian province of Buskerud, displays the strong interaction between location and architecture. Featuring a wooden construction, the holiday home consists of several irregularly arranged structures, which fit the height and orientation of the terrain.

Similarly, the Micro Cluster Cabins, which lie west of the Oslofjord, are privately-owned lodges constructed in 2014 as a group of buildings with the outside space representing the common element. The partly fully-glazed facades allow a glimpse inside and through to the bordering rocky outcrop behind the building.

An example of complex building functionality in action in an urban context is the Stjørdal cultural centre, which is currently under construction. Also functioning as a church, the centre accommodates a number of recreational facilities intended to create a lively meeting place within the small Norwegian town. A theatre, cinema, library, dance studio, cafe and youth centre are all part of this multifaceted, transparent and inviting building, which is encased by numerous glass profiles and represents an intensive engagement with the history and culture of its location.

Similar to how Alvar Aalto and other advocates of critical regionalism wanted to create a deliberate contrast to location-independent, universal architecture with their buildings, Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter’s project portfolio is a rejection of standardisation, showing more modest but memorable ways in which surroundings can determine architecture.

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