NOR­WE­GIAN MIRAGE

Numéro - - English Text - By Ch­ris­tian Si­menc

To pre­serve the coun­try’s moun­tai­nous, lu­nar land­scapes, the Nor­we­gian au­tho­ri­ties a re par­si­mo­nious about which buil­dings they al­low to be construc­ted in the Scan­di­na­vian king­dom’s stun­ning and ci­ne­ma­to­gra­phic pa­no­ra­mas.

It’s a won­der­ful road, on the side of a moun­tain. It be­gins with a few loops, which are then im­me­dia­te­ly fol­lo­wed by 11 ve­ry tight hair­pins, with a gra­dient constant­ly ho­ve­ring around 9%. Its name is Troll­sti­gen, which means “the road of the trolls,” a fa­mous stretch of Road 63 which runs through the heart of Nor­way in the coun­ty of Møre og Rom­sdal. If the pro­ba­bi­li­ty of seeing one of these my­thic crea­tures through your wind­screen is pret­ty low, you’d still bet­ter keep your eyes on the road – the ra­vine will not for­give any mis­takes. Be­cause of the win­ter wea­ther, this road is on­ly open an ave­rage of five months a year, f rom June to Sep­tem­ber. When at last you ar­rive up on the pla­teau, the al­ti­tude hasn’t even pas­sed 1,000 m, and yet you’d think you were up in the sum­mit of the hi­ghest moun­tains. And the names of the sur­roun­ding peaks add to the si te’s gran­deur: there’s Kon­gen ( “king” ), Dron­nin­gen

(“queen”) and Bis­pen (“bi­shop”), and of course Store Troll­tind (“the hi­ghest”), which reaches 1,788 m.

On the pla­teau – Troll­stig­platået

– one dis­co­vers an as­to­ni­shing suc­ces­sion of small contem­po­ra­ry buil­dings: a vi­si­tors’ centre with a res­tau­rant, se­ve­ral moun­tain re­fuges and al­so two ob­ser­va­tion plat­forms, all by Nor­we­gian firm Reiulf Ram­stad Ar­ki­tek­ter. De­si­gned to stand up to the ele­ments, these buil­dings in glass and concrete ex­hi­bit sharp forms which prevent the snow from set­tling for too long. Clear and dis­tinct, the tran­si­tions bet­ween the built and the na­tu­ral am­plif y the stran­ge­ness of the site. All around, land­scape de­si­gners Mul­ti­con­sult 13.3 have crea­ted wa­ter fea­tures ins­pi­red by the to­po­gra­phy, and wa­ter can be seen up here in all its states, from sta­tic snow to streams to roa­ring cas­cades. A zig­zag­ging foot­bridge leads to the first ob­ser­va­tion plat form, which al lows you to ap­pre­ciate the Stig­fos­sen cas­cade, plun­ging 320 m down in­to the val­ley be­low. Not far away, a hand­ful of steps lead to the se­cond, more spec­ta­cu­lar bel­ve­dere, a sor t of half- concrete half- Cor Ten-steel bal­co­ny that li­te­ral­ly le­vi­tates over a 200 m drop. The breath-ta­king view over the ma­jes­tic Is­ter­da­len val­ley in­vites you to com­mune with the pa­no­ra­ma. “Buil­ding in such an en­vi­ron­ment while trying to ma­gni­fy it was so­me­thing of a tour de force,” ex­plains Ram­stad. “The site is ex­cep­tio­nal: han­ging over the void of the val­ley be­low, it is part of a stun­nin­gly beau­ti­ful na­tu­ral cir­cus which has at­trac­ted tou­rists for years. It al­ways makes me sick to see how the most beau­ti­ful sites are des­troyed by the pres­sure of tou­rism, and I conse­quent­ly had one es­sen­tial goal: re- es­ta­bli­shing a conscious re­la­tion­ship bet­ween vi­si­tors and na­ture, bet­ween ar­chi­tec­ture and en­vi­ron­ment.”

Ram­stad has al­so built in the far north of Nor­way, in the Finn­mark re­gion, where he de­si­gned ano­ther ob­ser­va­tion post, this time floa­ting at wa­ter le­vel in the Ba­rents Sea. Lo­ca­ted on the edge of the coas­tal Road 889 in Sel­vi­ka Bay, the strange concrete struc­ture snakes down to a ti­ny beach of white sand. “From the road’s edge to the shore – this ve­ry spe­cial place – the goal was to aug­ment the ex­pe­rience of wal­king, and to make it unique,” ex­plains Ram­stad. “It was a ques­tion of am­pli­fying per­cep­tion. That’s why one of our ma­jor concerns was to slow down mo­ve­ment and al­low vi­si­tors, on the path it­self, to fo­cus on the main goal: fee­ling the calm, this re­la­tion­ship with the in­fi­nite that shar­pens the mind.” Well beyond the Arc­tic Circle, the pa­no­ra­ma, in its ste­rile, in­hos­pi­table beau­ty, is al­most lu­nar, and the ob­ser­va­tion post is the on­ly hu­man crea­tion in all the im­men­si­ty of the land­scape.

These buil­dings by Ram­stad are part of a pro­gramme laun­ched al­most 25 years ago by the Nor­we­gian go­vern­ment with the goal of com­ple­men­ting the coun­try’s most spec­ta­cu­lar land­scapes with mo­dest ar­chi­tec­tu­ral pro­jects – ob­ser­va­tion posts, rest spots, car parks, pic­nic grounds, etc. From the North Sea to the Ba­rents Sea, the au­tho­ri­ties se­lec­ted 18 routes known for their tou­ris­tic in­ter­est and com­mis­sio­ned around 50 ar­chi­tects to work on them. All the best contem­po­ra­ry Nor­we­gian ar­chi­tects ans­we­red the call, in­clu­ding Code, 3RW, 70° N, Snø­het ta, Todd Saun­ders and Tom­mie Wil­helm­sen, Jan Olav Jen­sen and Børre Skod­vin, Ei­nar Jar­mund and Hå­kon Vig­snæs, etc. One dis­tin­gui­shed fo­rei­gner was in­vi­ted on­to the list, the Swiss ar­chi­tect Pe­ter Zum­thor, 2009 win­ner of the Pritz­ker Prize. Since the first pro­jects were com­ple­ted in 1997, new ones have been inau­gu­ra­ted eve­ry year, like in May this year when Uredd­plas­sen, by the duo Hau­gen/ Zo­ha r, was u nve i led on t he Hel­ge­land­skys­ten road, or in June, when Buk­kek­jer­ka by the firm of Mor­feus was ope­ned on a road in Andøya. Like a se­ries of wake- up calls for dis­trac­ted tou­rists, these pro­jects consti­tute a se­ries of ex­cla­ma­tion marks in the land­scape. The pro­gramme is set to conti­nue un­til 2020, by which time a to­tal of 2,151 km of pa­no­ra­mic roads will have been “aug­men­ted” w i th ar­chi­tec­ture.

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