Subarctic Migration: Salt's Fish Rack

Snapshot: Like a viking longhouse, Rintala Eggertsson Architects create a sprawling, skeletal iteration of the fish rack, a gritty symbol of the spirit of Norway and built as part of the region's SALT celebration.

SALT is born of the arctic landscape; raw, like the bones of the mountains, and collaborative, a community project to enliven the cultural wealth of the area. SALT is "site-specific art projects, geared to initiate a dialogue that connects with the landscape and nature – past and present – surrounding it." It is necessarily connected to the landscape which has supported for so long an indomitable people. In the region of Nordland, in northern Norway, is the island of Sandhornøya. A mountainous island along the Scandinavian coast, you are likely to see "midnight sun" in the summer months and the otherwordly Northern Lights during the dark, winter months. The quality for which the region was selected, though, is that "for thousands of years people have followed the movement of animals and the seasonal rhythms in the Arctic landscape. Footprints are few." SALT is an iteration of that scarcity, the migratory patterns of fisherman trawling the gulf stream where the flush of water empties out into subarctic basins. Drawing from that instinct, SALT will travel the Northern regions of the world, creating meeting points between artistic creation, live performance, and community. 

The fish rack is the structure under which, and around which, SALT functions. Rintala Eggertsson Architects, of Oslo, has developed three iterations of the fish rack for SALT's program. The fish rack - fiskehjell - itself is a distinct symbol of the region, developed as a simple method for preserving fish for long, harsh winters. What makes the racks distinctive are their presence along Norway's northern coast, islands, and windswept breaks of land where fish can be dried quickly. Many of these racks have been forgotten, or left to decay like fish skeletons. They begin to become, and even reflect the Norwegian landscape and people, a bony presence through harsh winters and landscapes. 

Rintala Eggertsson Architects' Fish Rack has the stature of a longhouse, with the form and resilience of an alpine A-frame. The rack reflects the coastal mountains, itself a sharp line in the sand of a Sandhornøya beach. Thick, vertical poles join at a peak, while crossbars strengthen the structure and create a visual parallel to the horizon. The horizon is short, though, in this glacially-transformed environment populated with gneiss, granite boulders, and deep earthen grooves. The fish rack - "a steep, slender, and tall structure with an inherent arctic flexibility" - sticks out only in that it does not have the same aged patina as its surroundings.  The reliance on wood, and an historic structure for inspiration, recalls Rintala Eggertsson Architects other projects which often rely on materials of industry like thick, naval chains to create structures that often verge into the realm of installation. In northern Norway, the beauty of the landscape almost requires a deference to art in any practiced creation. Perhaps, then, the structure will remain, and after many years take on the deep, oily hoar of old wooden fisherman's huts - an artifact of the distinct art, culture, and people SALT celebrates.

Project courtesy of SALT and Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Photography by Gunnar Holmstad




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