Norway is a spoilt country. Not only did Norwegians find that treasure
chest at the bottom of the sea, they didnt even need to look for
the beautiful nature. But in spite of the fjords, rapids and mountains
three fine things that Norway has in abundance the country
has had a difficult time in competing on the international tourist front.
What should Norway do?
The answer was formulated rather vaguely at the beginning of the 1990s
by a man called Jan Søilen, who was then head of roads in Oppland.
He suspected what polls later confirmed: that when the route itself is
the aim of the journey, then tourists happily choose Norway. Can a roadside
resting-place, a bird-watching tower, a path, a toilet or a bridge be
designed so well and so excitingly that tourists will go out of their
way, stop for an extra cup of coffee, stay a few more nights well
then thats a true success for both the country and the countryside.
Quite frankly I saw a need to develop beautiful tourist roads. The
idea isnt unique, it has been tested in other countries. And the
credit for the projects development in Norway is not down to me,
but to Jan Andresen. He developed the idea and imbued it with a quality
In 1993 Jan Andresen was head of planning at the same office for roads
in Lillehammer as Jan Søilen and was given the task of drawing
up the guiding principles for how a state-financed experimental project
might look. The idea was to do something that was fundamentally different
from other countries often culturally historically characterised
tourist roads. Norway wanted to encourage tourism by creating new architecture
and art. The experimental project was called Rejselivsprojektet
and was carried out from 19941997.
From the very start, the project management showed that it was serious
in its talk about quality, by connecting artists to aesthetic advisors
with the task of raising the artistic level. In retrospect one can see
how the venture became a type of nursery for a whole new generation of
architects, that the Road Administration in its commissioning role deliberately
helped to bring out.
The experiment was considered so successful that the Norwegian parliament
decided to extend it to The tourist road project in 1998,
and has been working to develop 14 new stretches of road since that time.
In connection with the major investment, the aesthetic advisors were replaced
by architectural advisors. Today there are two of these, both composed
of an architect, a landscape architect and an artist.
The first thing we did was to send letters to all the municipalities
and tourist organisations asking them to suggest stretches of road that
could be upgraded to national tourist road standards, says Andresen,
who today is the project leader for the entire Tourist road project, directly
subordinate to the Norwegian director of Public Roads Administration.
Fifty-two proposals were received and after a tough selection, 18 were
left. Kvalitetsstyret was responsible for the choice, an organization
with representatives from the tourist industry, nature conservation authorities,
the Norwegian motorists organisation, etc.
In order to qualify as a national tourist road, a stretch needed to give
a continuous driving experience through unique nature with a clear
In spite of the fact that in public debates it has been maintained that
tourist road finances should be placed on improvements to the normal road
network, the Norwegian Road Administration is happy working with tourism
and discussing roads as branded goods in its presentation
Well, the basis for the Road Administrations activity has
always been about developing industry. In this way tourist roads are a
rather natural part of us, says Andresen calmly, accustomed to having
the role of the Road Administration questioned.
Now, when the project is half-way to completion, at least regarding time,
it is time to move the focus from the planning to the building stage.
In 2009 at least half of the 18 stretches of road will be ready. The next
one, the fifth, to be branded a national tourist road, is the stretch
The Norwegian tourist roads can be compared to a 1,620 kilometre-long
and around seven-metre-wide flypaper that the tourists will hopefully
get stuck to (on). And there are plenty more figures to show the size
of the project: the 18 stretches have an average of 15 built sites each,
from small parking spaces costing 200,000 kronor to large multimillion-class
buildings. In total around 250 sites are being planned, built and
evaluated before the completion of the project in 2015.
Another way to understand the scope of the project
is to hitch a ride one day with Helge Stikbakke, project leader, responsible
for three stretches of road. During the hours it takes to go back and
forth along the 42-kilometre-stretch of Rondane, and stopping several
times in this borderland between high mountains and an old cultural landscape,
he finds time to talk about hardships and causes of rejoicing since he
on the project in 2003. In spite of the political and economic uncertainty
inherent in the project (decision-making politicians are exchanged and
new subsidies must be granted every year), he believes in the bearing
capacity of the project.
The greatest challenge is
to get all the local players to aim at the same goal. Those of us in the
project must be at the forefront and show what we mean by quality, set
good examples. You must take into account that local investments from
industry, that we are hoping our ventures will encourage, wont happen
He slows down on a straight patch of road and turns off. We have come
to one of the good examples: Sohlbergplassen, a new look-out point designed
by Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk (opened in June 2006).
This place is a work of genius. It is both complex and modest at
the same time. Its not until you stop and get out the car that you
discover that a small artwork is lying in wait between the pines,
says Helge Stikbakke.
The artwork or look-out point, whatever you want to designate it, billows
forwards at street level while the ground slopes sharply downwards.
The idea has been to create a place that forms itself from nature, disturbing
the vegetation as little as possible. Thats why there are bars in
the cement flooring so that the sunlight and rain can reach in under the
terrace. Not one single tree, yes, a pine (and they stand close to each
other) needed to be felled to make room for the construction that rests
on long steel pillars anchored into the mountain. The longest pillars
are about 20
Helge Stikbakke is actually a surveyor, and has worked many years at several
different positions within the Norwegian Road Administration. Today he
considers himself a mixture between an industry consultant, a marketing
man and a project leader. He describes the work with the architectural
advisors as stimulating.
Read the hole article in the new
issue, no 3.06
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