Sami Parliament hit by rotting wood

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There’s something rotten in the Sami Parliament building (Sametinget) and it’s threatening the very existence of the architectural landmark in Northern Norway that was constructed just 12 years ago. Debate is flying over whether the building, or at least parts of it, should be replaced.

The Sami Parliament building in Karasjok is an architectural landmark that's posing expensive maintenance challenges. PHOTO: Views and News

Local newspaper Sagat in the Norwegian Sami capital of Karasjok in Finnmark County reported this week that  the building that formally opened in 2000 is plagued by dry rot and fungus that’s attacked its Siberian wood siding.

The architects that designed the building chose the Siberian lerke wood because it, in theory, wouldn’t need any staining or painting and would retain a weathered, rustic appearance. Instead the wood has been vulnerable to rot where the building is shaded or subject to dampness, and maintenance costs are mounting.

One proposed solution to the problems calls for tearing down parts of the building and starting over with new materials, but that’s not popular among many Sami politicians. The building is also subject to state preservation orders that limit external changes, complicating what can be done to hinder the rotting process.

“We face challenges,” Per Edvard Klemetsen, project director for Sametinget, told Sagat. He said that various rescue methods already have cost NOK 1.5 million over the past three years.

Meanwhile, the Sami Parliament already is too small to accommodate space needs and Statsbygg, the public agency in charge of state building projects, is in the process of planning a new office building near or adjacent to the existing parliament building. Acute office needs mean the parliament’s administration may move out of the Sametinget and into new quarters, leaving the original parliament building to its politicians with preservation orders stymying its maintenance and operations.

Klemetsen pointed out that the Sami parliament is its own authority on preservation matters, and that its maintenance and operation shouldn’t affect plans for the new office building. He doesn’t want preservation orders to stop maintenance needs at the existing building either.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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