Fritanken Ny-Hellesund Rehab

Run down and full of diesel oil, the discarded oil tank from 1956 was left behind after the wharf in Ny-Hellesund was decommissioned and protected as a historic landmark. The artist Per Fronth saw its potential, and today it has become an exclusive little residence, a sanctuary for artists and others.

Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: Knut Bry

A place to find new inspiration and think new thoughts – or do nothing, just be alone for a while with the immensely beautiful views of the sea outside. This could be one of the world’s smallest and most original hotels with one single room, built on humanistic ideals of free thought. The Verftet or wharf which Fritanken – Free Thought – or Ny-Hellesund Rehab is a part of, has several other accommodation options. It was reborn like a Phoenix in 2012 as a delightful guest house in the beautiful skerries, and today it houses 21 modern apartments, a conference room and its own beach. Famous restaurateurs Bølgen & Moi have opened a gourmet restaurant here too. Visitors arriving by air to Kristiansand airport Kjevik, need only take a five minute walk down the Airport quay, and from there a 20 minute boat trip to Ny-Hellesund, the poet Vilhelm Krag’s southern paradise.


Two storey suite

The owner and the man behind the original tank transformation, artist Per Fronth, is internationally renowned for his works in the borderland between photography and painting. His art is represented in collections and exhibitions all over the world.

Per Fronth was born in Kristiansand and grew up in Ny-Hellesund. Some of the most important and central of his works, the Archipelago series, deal with his childhood by the skerries on the southern coast. Fronth is a contemporary artist, and the Archipelago works are contrasted by other themes: the problems in the Amazon rain forest, the fox hunts of the British aristocrats and soldiers of democracy in war-torn Afghanistan.

When US president Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, it came with an artwork from Olavsundet in Ny-Hellesund by Per Fronth.

The oil tank was originally built in 1956 and is the last and only remaining physical remnant of the old wharf. When Per Fronth saw it for the first time, he immediately realised its potential, but he also knew that it would take an unusual solution to transform it into a dwelling. In the end he found it, with the cooperation of architect Tor Linge Tønnesen and interior designer Jonas Dybedal. Today the tank is a completely renovated two storey, 21 square metre suite, with views in all directions, with the architecture and design split into sectors like a compass. All the interiors are hand crafted and designed to fit the round shape of the tank, which is 3.6 metres in diameter. Every last millimetre has been utilised, and for the walls Fronth has created original artworks.

On the ground floor there is a lounge, kitchen, shower and toilet, on the first floor a bedroom with access to a small balcony where guests can enjoy the very last sun rays of a southern summer evening. There is also a round window in the ceiling above the bed, so guests can count the stars in the Milky Way before drifting off to sleep …


Seafaring history

A shipwreck in 1450 has left its distinct mark on the Fritanken suite. The Estonian ship sank a few hundred metres off shore. The story goes that it was on its way to Scotland with stone which was destined for Edinburgh cathedral to make church floors and sarcophagi. When Per Fronth heard this story, he immediately got in touch with some divers who had brought stones from the wreckage up to the surface – hoping he could find something he could use. A farmer in nearby Søgne provided twelve stones, and Fronth had them cut and laid on the floor by the entrance to the tank. The main stone is round and became the centre piece of the wooden floor in the lounge, which is shaped like a compass rose. When guests step into Per Fronth’s tank, they set foot on a dramatic piece of Norwegian seafaring history.

The tank is available to rent for special occasions. When hosting weddings, guests can stay at the Wharf while the bride and groom stay in the Fritanken tank.

What better way to start married life? With views in every direction, surrounded by the ultimate southern idyll – and a reminder that your thoughts are free to roam …

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