06. August 2012 / Robert Schäfer

The Norwegian National Tourist Routes

To mark the 20th anniversary of Topos, edition 80 (due out September) will celebrate landscape architecture as a profession. For this reason the editors chose to recognize two initiatives that together show the range of planning responsibilities and provide material for professional reflection: from building in the countryside to urban agriculture.
Abalimi Bezekhaya and the Norwegian Tourist Routes are the two winning projects. We presented the work of Abalimi Bezekhaya here last week. Today we present the Norwegian National Tourist Routes.

Image 1: Trollstigen Plateau National Tourist Route, Norway, Reiulf Ramstad Architects.

The now relatively well-publicized idea of the Statens Vegvesen (Norwegian National Road Administration) was born 20 years ago: applying to particularly stunning rural routes throughout Norway. All Norwegian regions were invited to submit such routes, 18 of the best were chosen, points of interest along the routes were then identified on which new rest areas and service facilities were to be built, all complete with spectacular views. Artists, architects and landscape architects were invited to participate. The background of the whole scheme was to lure more tourists to remote areas, and it was recognized early on the effectiveness of outstanding architecture as bait. Landscape design, architecture and infrastructure are the key words that resonate with the tourist routes. Almost all the routes and rest stops can only be reached by car or by mountain bike, although increasingly there are more locally organized bus excursions, and tour bus operators are beginning to include the stunning beauty of the tourist routes into their programs.

Images 2 & 3: DEN by Mark Dion. Photography: Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen.

Some routes like Sognefjellet Rondane have long been in use, others like Geiranger - Trollstigen and Havøysund were only opened this summer, and on the 7th of September Aurlandsfjellet will be officially inaugurated. For some years now the lure of attractions such as the Stegastein Viewing Platform has enticed those motorists who prefer to wind their way slowly through the mountains than taking the longest road tunnel in the world, the Lærdalstunnelen. As the routes are only passable in summer, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration will open the National Tourist Route Aurlandsfjellet at noon on Friday 7th September, and to celebrate will unveil a new work by the American artist Mark Dion, called DEN. The unveiling of the artwork will take place at Vedahaugene and will be performed by Liv Signe Navarsete, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development.
Dion's artwork is an installation at Aurlandsfjell featuring a bear, who lies asleep on top of a pile of objects found at flea markets and thrift shops. The title, DEN, indicates that the bear is in hibernation.

Why has Topos chosen to grant recognition to the Norwegian Tourist Routes project? Firstly to highlight the situation in Norway, where the state is actively promoting and commissioning architecture on a significant scale, and on the other hand to critically reflect on whether it is responsible in current times to be encouraging more car-based tourism. Thus the whole concept, including each of the 50+ highlights, can be brought into discussion.

Topos has repeatedly reported on the tourist routes, and Topos 80 (due in September) will also include an article by Reiulf Ramstad (Reiulf Ramstad Architects, Oslo).

The Norwegian Tourist Routes, as well as the second recognition winner Abalimi Bezekhaya, will be presented at the 7th European Biennial of Landscape Architecture in Barcelona on the 29th of September.

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