People are lining up to spend a night at one of Solveig Egeland’s lovenests. Egeland builds tiny homes or in her case, tiny huts and cabins, as a way of showing people just how much they need to be happy and how important it is to get back to basics.
Her passion is spurred on by the increasing size of the Norwegian cabin and the consumerist hunger of global capitalism. The hut or cabin is as much a part of the Norwegian psyche and soul as brunost and syttende mai are. It is the ultimate freedom symbol: a place to escape from the ratrace, spend quality time with one’s family, out in the beauty of Norway’s nature, and more.
Several decades ago the humble Norwegian cabin was a simple construction, without running water, electricity or sewage. Nowadays, it has became a symbol of excess, with an extravagant floorspace surpassing even the modest Norwegian home. The whole idea of getting back to basics has long been replaced by an endless catalogue of mod cons and fancy gadgets. This behaviour makes Egeland see red.
“Just how much do you need to enjoy a cup of coffee on your doorstep?” was a question she asked herself many years ago. The reaction she felt within her was like a bolt of lightning, motivating her to give up her job, and set out to find the answer.
“I build small huts to remind us of the values which most of us instinctively know, but which have been pushed aside in the hunt for comfort and insulated walls. My goal is for people to listen, listen to the sound of the wind, silence, raindrops and nature’s song,” she says.
Egeland is an artist, who has attracted royal and international interest. People are eager to spend a night in one of her huts, even those huts made from recycled waste. The hut made from ‘rubbish’, and her other projects, have been icons she has built out of silent protest against the desire for ‘more’.
This greed for more can be seen in a new law about to come into effect from the 1st of July, which will give anyone who wants to build higher and bigger on their property, the right to not inform or warn their neighbours.
“People are building bigger and bigger huts, and are blowing up mountains to fulfil their dreams. I once asked a councillor in a small municipality if he had ever had a cabin development without sewage or running water. He looked at me as if I were from another planet. I was so provoked by his reaction that I decided then and there to find out just how much space we need to enjoy a cup of coffee.”
The first hut she built was near Lista lighthouse, and was made from environmentally-friendly materials. The intention was to build a hut to inspire peace, satisfaction, and close contact with nature and the sea. Despite its modest size of 5 square metres, people are on a waiting list to stay there.
Solveig spends a lot of time deciding where she will build her huts. She finds this an important part of her preparation. In the building of the two wooden huts near Koster, she followed the path of animals, who had used the local area for hundreds of years for grazing, to find the perfect site.
“For this site, we cut down some trees to give light to others. The trees we cut down, I used in the building of these huts. Nature is so rich. Take this aspen tree for example. If you place it in a bog, the bark will come off after one year. The tree will also become hardened by this process and can be used for many years thereafter. But today most people use chemicals to impregnate wood and this doesn’t have the same effect. We have become too lazy and rich. Unfortunately Norway has too much money.”
Solveig didn’t use any nails, chemicals or modern methods in the building of the two huts. And yet they fit in perfectly with the trees and mountains in their surroundings. She worries that the art of building that she uses, especially the traditional Norwegian handcraft culture, will soon be forgotten.
“Old knowledge is being lost and because of this we’re losing our creativity. It’s easy to become depressed about this, but I don’t want to make it my focus. Instead I try to show, and not tell.”
Solveig has now built 18 huts in total. Even though she was afraid at first that people wouldn’t respond to her silent protest, the reality is that people are queuing up to be a part of it.
“I believe that people can realign themselves when they come here and spend a night in one of the huts together with nature. I hope each one can spend a little bit of time recognising what it is that really makes us happy. There is responsibility in inheriting something, and how we take care of that which we inherit. We must take care of ourselves and nature.”