The rubbish hut has gone to trash heaven – but its disciples may find comfort in knowing there is the possibility of an afterlife.
The small hut, made of trash collected from the north shores of Spitsbergen, was stripped down to its teepee-like wood pole frame and its elevator-size cabin on Friday, said Solveig Egeland, who designed and helped build the cabin in August of 2014. Removing the colorful – and climbable – assortment of debris such as fishing nets, plastic trawl balls and ropes ends the hut’s 14-month history controversy, quirks and ultimate triumph.
“This was the one of the city’s great landmarks and the kindergartners’ hub for playing on the shore,” wrote Sigvart Bjøntegaard in a post on a community “jeers and cheers” Facebook page.
Workers at the city’s municipal waste facility, which is adjacent to the hut’s beachside location, were scheduled to take it down Oct. 1, but it got a short reprieve before the unannounced dismantling, Egeland said.
“We’ve been waiting for them to take it down and Friday they found the time,” she said.
A few stray bits of debris still remain on the frame and much of the interior, including some fliers explaining the project’s concept are mounted to the still-standing cabin. Egeland said that while removing the debris was easy, dismantling the core elements of the structure is a far more difficult task – one the city workers weren’t sure they wanted to undertake.
“The frame was so good they didn’t want to take it down,” she said.
Egeland said she plans to speak with city officials on Monday to decide the next step. One option might be building some type of new structure using the frame and cabin.
Meanwhile, some of the debris will be brought to the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Olso by the governor’s Polarsyssel service vessel, according to a message Egeland posted on her Facebook page Sunday. It’s a fitting end for the rubbish, since the governor’s office – using a different service vessel – brought the rubbish to Longyearbyen after its annual coastal cleanup cruise in north Spitsbergen.
The unannounced dismantling surprised and dismayed many residents debating the hut’s existence on the “jeers and cheers” page, although there were still remnants of the controversies that have given the structure its storied history.
Egeland, who has build numerous similar structures at various locations in Norway to draw attention to the issue of pollution and its effect on the environment, built the Longyearbyen hut with the help of volunteers and a grant from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund. Early naysayers expressed dismay at the grant, arguing the money should have been spent on something more practical than an ugly shrine to scraps.
The hut was originally supposed to be dismantled Oct. 1, 2014, but an offer almost literally at the last minute by a local group of residents to care for the cabin resulted in officials granting the hut a one-year stay of execution. By the time Egeland said during the summer she intended to honor her pledge to dismantle the cabin, even most of the strongest naysayers had become fans of her project due to the debate it sparked and favor it found among kids.
Still, not everyone was a convert to the cause by the time the debris was removed.
“Garbage is garbage,” wrote Helene Renate Hvedding on the Facebook page.
Visitors – both real and virtual – were also drawn to the seaside attraction, including one person who saw it on a webcam and told the world he’d seen “evidence of alien beings” in Svalbard
While many expressed disappointment about the removal of rubbish, it appears there was no serious effort made to keep the structure intact after Egeland announced her intentions.
“You could have taken legal responsibility before so the the cabin would remain standing,” wrote Werner Lind. “Blame goes to anyone who wanted it, but that wouldn’t take responsibility before this.”
But it’s unclear if a private individual could actually obtain such status since Longyearbyen’s municipal government and The Governor of Svalbard both have a say in allowing the cabin’s existence, while the national government owns the land due to its recent acquisition of Store Norske’s property as part of a bailout package to help the crippled mining company.