Arch Inspo: Trollhus Sugar Bowl, CA

Norwegian modernism meets California can-do ingenuity, via Mork Ulnes Architects

Lake Tahoe’s Donner Summit is best known for one of the worst moments in western pioneering history. (Confused? Read this.) More recently the naturally breathtaking region has begun to attract an increasingly design-focused breed of visitors, leading to less classic ski lodges and (thankfully) more modern cabins. On the striking end of the spectrum is the recently completed Trollhus, by Mork Ulnes Architects. Located in the ski village of Sugar Bowl—adjacent to soon to be home of Norden Cross, a hotly anticipated modern alpine development—the contemporary second home is a beautiful example of alpine modernism.

Designed as a retreat for a family of fifteen (extended relatives included, thankfully), the sizable structure is raised a full story from the ground by a plinth concrete foundation that offers egress and storage in the summer and protects the ski cabin from the site’s harsh weather during winter months, which can bring up to 800 inches of snowfall annually.

While imposing in size, the hyper minimal facade makes for a surprisingly adaptive structure, capable of reflecting its environment with the changing seasons. Inspired by the Architect’s Scandinavian heritage—though definitely not small, the aesthetic is certainly driven by simplicity and refined characteristics—the five bedroom chalet concept is meant to resemble a tree house suspended between treetops, blending in with the surroundings seamlessly. To achieve this, the exterior is made of solid 2x4 timber beams coated in black tar, a traditional Norwegian technique of preservation dating back to medieval times. The interior is much warmer, with natural wood illuminated by large windows and sky lights throughout.

As far as retreats go, Troll Hus sure beats Camp Anawanna.

all images courtesy Mork Ulnes Architects

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