AR Awards for Emerging Architecture

Honourable mention


Viewing platform

Aurland, Norway

December 2006
Three hours drive from Bergen is Aurland, a small town on Sogne og Fjordane, one of the largest and most spectacular fjords on Norway’s meandering west coast. Phenomenal views attract tourists here from all over the world, but the net effect of visitor enthusiasm is an often overwhelming number of cars, buses and people, impinging not so lightly on a precious, pristine wilderness.
The Norwegian Highways Department took matters in hand and staged a competition for how tourists and nature might be reconciled. Canadian/Norwegian duo Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhelmsen's winning proposal combines a viewing platform with obligatory lavatories and parking, but separates the various elements so that the mess and fuss of parking is at some remove from the idyll of the viewpoint.
The site is at Stegastein on a winding road that became largely redundant when a tunnel was bored through the nearby mountain. Thrusting out 30m from the hilltop, the viewing platform is an undeniably bold gesture in the landscape, curving round and back into the hillside where its exposed steel structure is anchored by a concrete base. Prudent positioning preserves existing pine trees, so that visitors perambulate through the tree tops.
Traversing the platform is not for the faint hearted. Though apparently solid and clad in strips of pine, the relative slenderness of the structure means that it does sway slightly in the wind. Those who make it to the end can savour vertiginous views over the fjord, a 600m sheer drop below, uninterrupted by the niceties of balustrading. Instead, a sheet of toughened glass set at an angle is all that separates visitor from void. Some jury members thought the form overly gestural, but had to agree that the aim of bringing people closer to nature was triumphantly (and terrifyingly) realised. C. S.

Saunders Arkitektur, Bergen;
Wilhelmsen Arkitektur, Stavanger
Nils Vik
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