I went on a trip to Norway with the team at Leif Jørgensen Architects.
One thing you cannot prepare for (unless you are from Norway or Iceland or some place similar), is the incredible nature. About 25km after the beautiful ferry ride we found ourselves in the middle of nothing but rocks and snow.
The scenery changes constantly, with only the mountains being ever-present.
Our first planned bit of sightseeing was the Tverrfjellhytta reindeer pavilion by norwegian architects Snöhetta. The pavilion is what they fittingly calls a "keyless structure", meaning that it is open to everyone always. It is situated in Hjerkinn and overlooks the mountain Snöhetta which the company is named after.
The walk up to the pavilion is through a couple of kilometers of rocky plains, before the impressive building slowly becomes visible in the horizon. It is a fantastic place to spend some time, just sitting in the organically carved wood interior looking out at the landscape. The building itself is worth the trip, but the way the view is framed by the corten shell is the real treat. It is like sitting right in front of a huge, beautiful photograph, which slowly changes before your eyes.
On the walk up to the viewing point snowy fog slowly started rolling in. After having spend some time studying the building and the view, we started the descent towards the parking lot. The snow increased which limited visibility and apparently confused the focusing abilities of my camera.
Reiulf Ramstad architects
Trollstigen is part of the Norwegian National Road 63, which is an experience in itself. Suspended above the 11 hairpins is an overlook designed by Reiulf Ramstad Architects, and behind that, a visitor centre made by the same architects. As in the Tverrfjellhytta before, corten steel is the material of choice, this time combined with concrete.
The view and surroundings are arguably more impressive than in Hjerkinn, and the walk out to the viewpoint is exciting, as you start at the visitor centre with clear, calm water running beside you, which ends in a 320 meter waterfall underneath the pathway.
Even though the materials are similar to the Tverrfjellhytta, the design of the viewpoint is a lot more busy here. The construction twists and turns in sharp angles, which works well as a contrast to the surrounding nature, but it feels as though it could be turned down just a bit. One thing that worked well though, was how glass plates interrupted the steel frame, which gave an impression of openings to a long fall.
juvet landscape hotel
Jensen & Skodvin architects
The main reason for our trip to Norway, was to see the Juvet Landscape Hotel. The hotel is placed at a natural reserve, and consists of seven small cabins scattered along the Valldøla river, which passes right through the site. In addition two new single-bed "birdhouses" were added to the hotel in 2013.
The main building at the place is a large, 100-year old barn, where breakfast and dinner is served. The meals at Juvet are social experiences, where all the guests sit at one long table and enjoy the food, sort of like a private dinner. It is a special experience, but actually quite nice, because Juvet attracts people from all over the world, despite the fact that the hotel only has room for 16 guests.
The seven regular cabins are all unique, but all stem from the same idea. Since the site is a natural reserve, care has been taken in the placement and construction of the them. In order to minimise the need for clearing out the environment, they all sit on steel poles which have been drilled into the rock foundation. The shape of each cabin has been optimised to interfere as little as possible with the foliage, while still providing a large panoramic view towards the river.
The interior feature very dark, matt surfaces, which eliminates reflections in the single large window of each room. As the interior is toned down you do not even notice the room, because the view is so captivating and is given the space to shine. The only colour inside is the tiny, bright yellow bathroom working as a nice contrast, and a bit of fun in the midst of the otherwise serious expression.
The result of the toned down architecture, and the well planned site, is a feeling of complete integration with the wild surroundings. The cabins hide well and seem to be held up by the trees and plants. It almost looks like the cabins have been here for thousands of years, and nature now is starting to reclaim the place.
The two new smaller cabins are placed on the steep hill behind the regular cabins. Juvet calls them "birdhouses". They hang from the hill, and look almost unsupported because of the slender steel construction, which hides in the shadow below each of them. These small cabins fits a raised bed, a small sofa-bench, and a bathroom in approximately 8 square meters of floor area. Since you cannot see the ground from the inside, you get the feeling of sitting high up in the trees, which is nicely done. The regular cabins are definitely still the stars of the show, but the smaller, and cheaper, birdhouses are also impressive.
Juvet is a brilliant place and totally recommended for anyone with an interest in architecture, design and nature. The respect for the incredible nature, the monochromatic colour palette, the raw material choices, and the simple form language makes for a stunning project.
The final photo is from Zakariasdammen, a huge dam which lies up in the mountains, far from the closest town. The reservoir can hold up to 70 million cubic meters of water and is 96 meters tall. The view from here is fantastic, and is a fitting way of ending this postcard from Norway.