Høyåsen - From vacant farm to rural eco-living

Høyåsen - From vacant farm to rural eco-living
A pilot project on how to turn an old farm into a modern ecological farm through low-tech techniques, local materials and community based activity.

Oslo, Norway
Team members
Armelle Breuil
Rikke Winther
Field of work
Architecture, Ecology, Curating, Research
Project category
Rural spaces
Project submitted

ACT! is a young women-led architecture practice that believes that acting on the world's ecological crisis is of the utmost urgency.
Our practice is based on the idea that no matter what we produce we’re going to leave a trace, and part of that will not regenerate. Therefore, we focus as much as we can on building only the necessary, designing with care and taking action in any way we can.

We focus on:
→ Construction & conception, for ecological architecture, such as our project Bademaschinen.
→ Research on ecological architecture and new ways of living, such as Høyåsen.
→ Sharing our knowledge, through giving workshops or through consulting.

We are Rikke Winther and Armelle Breuil.

Rikke’s passion for architecture is rooted in taking care of the natural and social environment, and she loves exploring this through a play with composition and materiality. She is a ‘permaculturist’ with a teaching certificate in permaculture design and a member of Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) Norge.

Armelle’s drive for working with architecture comes from the belief that there is a need for other ways of living, where architectural design is an important component. She is an activist within the climate movement, as she believes the time of talking about the current ecological collapse is long past, it is time to ACT! She is also a co-founder of ACAN Norge. In 2020 she took the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC).
Armelle is also part of Safe Space Collective and JAM Collective. She is currently the international coordinator for the UK branch of ACAN.

Høyåsen is a typical vacant farm site in the rural area of Arendal, Norway.
Today there are more than 30.000 abandoned farms around the country (SSB.no, 2017), and similarly, farming at Høyåsen has been inactive for many years.

In 2020 the neighbors of the site bought the farm, and saved it from potential housing developments. The owners vision is to bring back the old farming activities based on permaculture principles, as well as making the area a connection point for farming, learning and recreation.

Høyåsen is a pilot project that raises questions on how to utilize and adopt such sites to fit modern farming into a contemporary context, and looks at the potential of combining activities around heritage, food production and ecological living. Høyåsen could become a showcase for how to transition farms that otherwise have lost their function, into a sustainable model for contemporary farmlife.

A barn, three off grid working- and visiting cabins, a sauna, and a wintergarden are to be designed and planned with ecological principles: low-tech, local resources, self building, reuse and design for disassembly, circular economy. Visiting the farm, for a day or more, will be an experience showing the potential of a slower life in connexion with the local environment

Through Høyåsen we believe that we can challenge the role of the architects, and develop other aspects of our profession. This is more needed than ever, when we are facing the biggest challenges of our time; the ecological crisis and biodiversity collapse. Therefore the building process will be an experimentation in itself. It will be based on self-building, and on community based workshops aiming to be a platform for the exchange of skills and knowledge. We are planning to develop a workshop series for each part of the project, from the structure of the buildings to their materials, as well as toolkit and zines to share the project beyond Arendal’s boundaries.