Next to Gustave Wasa's house, exhibited by Sweden, Norway, in its own part of the park, offers us a specimen of its houses, whose graceful, all-wood construction captivates and fixes the attention. The model on display should not be taken to mean that all houses in Norway are so luxurious, for many are far from matching it in elegance and comfort.
Although Norway's forests produce a great deal of much sought-after timber for building, it is easy to see from the quantity that had to be used, and in spite of its primitive cheapness, that the construction of the Norwegian house is still expensive enough not to be within the reach of all classes.
In Norway every man generally lives in his own house; it is more or less substantial, according to the fortune of the man who built it: and there are many which have had to be kept within more restricted limits, but all perfectly constructed to make them impenetrable to the air. The Norwegian house, while giving us the exact style of wooden constructions, serves as an annex for the products that could not find a place in the palace and which are still quite numerous.
Thus we find here fishing equipment, gear, and small-scale samples of houses of various types of construction, but in which wood is still widely used. A certain feeling that animates Norwegian families makes them live isolated and this is why their dwellings are quite far from each other.
Each family lives in isolation, and according to its size has several wooden houses, and it is their combination that is known in the country as a gaard, i.e. a broken-down house.
In one of these houses the whole family, often numerous, sleeps; in another, where the kitchen and dining room are sometimes located, all the members meet at set times to eat together.
Then other constructions, always made of wood, serve as a storehouse, where the fishing utensils are prepared or repaired, and the fish are prepared, in order to be sent to new countries which are looking for them for their food or for a new re-exportation. Thus the village is the meeting of families, the gaard is essentially the family gathered together, cooperating in common in the collective work.
If outside work can occupy them only a few days, it is in these wooden houses that the Norwegian peasants occupy themselves with those small carved wooden objects, so sought after for the delicacy of the design and the particular taste that characterises it, and which they make for various special industries.
Through the Gustave Wasa house and the Norwegian house, the Swedish and Norwegian section will have provided us with two models which will truly have initiated us completely into the mode of construction used in these countries.
We are grateful to the intelligent men who thought of them, and we are happy to be able to say that they have not only enlightened opinion, but have amply satisfied it.
For those who have followed Sweden and Norway since our last exhibitions, they will see with us that these two countries have made serious progress. Moreover, the encouragement given to the arts and industry in Sweden and Norway could not be more numerous, and in such conditions with their own wealth, these two countries will always deserve to be mentioned.
The exclusive use of wood in construction belongs in Europe only to the Indo-Germanic races. Also, in the south of France, in Spain, in Italy, that is to say, in the countries that have long been subject to Roman customs, we almost never see houses built solely with wood.
In the north of Gaul, on the other hand, among the Franks and the Normans, various types of wood were used for several centuries to build houses, both in the towns and in the countryside, and this exclusive use of wood was maintained throughout the Merovingian and Carolingian periods.
The inhabitants of Sweden and Norway used wood almost exclusively to build their field houses.
The house of Gustave Wasa, which we have reproduced above, and the Norwegian house which appears in today's issue, can give us an idea of the art that presides over these constructions, which is not as primitive as one might think.
The Norwegian house is separated from the ground by a stone base which offers two advantages: the first is to isolate the house from the ground itself, which is almost always covered with ice or snow during the winter; the second is to provide a sort of extremely useful cellar in the basement. The walls of the house are made of fir trees, of which only two sides are slightly squared. These fir trees are placed horizontally on top of each other, with the squared sides lying flat and the rounded surfaces facing in and out. The fir trees are mantled at the corners to long iron or wooden rods that reach up to the roof.
Although the model shown is only one storey, in Norway similar houses are divided into two storeys. Usually the staircase is placed outside in an elegant cage. The ground floor, like the ground floor, almost always consists of a single room, the upper one being illuminated by numerous openings leading to a more or less ornate circular gallery: the house at the Exhibition has an elegant gallery with very graceful Byzantine pilasters. The upper floor is used as a bedroom or rather as a dormitory for the whole family; there is always a place for a stranger to stay. In these hospitable parts of the world, this room is often occupied on sunny days, as the imposing Norwegian landscape attracts many tourists. Above the room rises the roof, similar to that of a Swiss chalet, which extends over two sides of the house.
Such is the construction which gives us a very accurate idea of Norwegian dwellings in mountainous countries. It is not, of course, the dwelling of the poor, but that of the farmer, the comfortable farmer. In spite of the many forests of Norway and the relatively low prices of its woods, the poor man could not afford a dwelling as beautiful and as large as the one he saw.
But the rich Norwegian farmer is not content with a single building like the one we see, his dwelling consists, like our large farms, of several houses which serve as sheds, shelters, shops or stables.
The Norwegian house, while introducing us to the construction method used in this country, serves as an annex for Norwegian products that could not be stored in the Palace.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée