Inside Lake Tahoe's Brilliant Troll Hus
Norwegian modernism meets California can-do ingenuity, via famed Mork Ulnes Architects
Lake Tahoe’s Donner Summit is best known for two things—one of the more nightmarish moments in western pioneering history, and dang good skiing and boarding. And since the 60s, the naturally breathtaking region has attracted an increasingly design-focused breed of visitors too, leading to less classic ski lodges and (thankfully) more modern architecture. On the striking end of the spectrum is the recently completed Troll Hus, by Mork Ulnes Architects. Located in the North Lake Tahoe ski village of Sugar Bowl, 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.
As such the exterior is made of solid 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. And with plenty of private and shared spaces, the "cabin", while massive compared to the pioneer structures that once dotted the landscapes of Tahoe, still retains a sense of community and intimacy, as any good cabin should.