Driven to distraction: the Norway road trip where cool design meets dramatic scenery

August 3, 2016

Norway’s roadside architecture project, part of its National Tourist Routes, has led to the creation of bridges and viewing platforms that make every journey a tour de force – and more new designs are on the horizon

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Vertigo-inducing viewing platforms, island-hopping bridges, and some of the funkiest toilet facilities in the northern hemisphere: these are just a sample of the design flourishes that Norway’s National Tourist Routes programme (NTR) has introduced across the country over the past 15 years. Add to this the fact that the roads programme has been a great incubator for Norway’s young, vibrant architectural scene – which is respected for its daring and imagination across Europe – and for anyone heading north this summer, with design leanings or simply curious, a road trip beckons.

This is a far cry from the NTR’s beginnings. The first pilot project by the then young – and today highly respected – firm of Jensen & Skodvin Architects (JSA) was completed in western Norway in 1997. Aimed at drawing tourists into the stunning, if rarely visited, landscape through appealing roadside architecture, a full programme was subsequently launched, with 18 routes across Norway’s south, its coastal regions and the far north eventually chosen in 2004. The pieces were primarily architectural, though in places, art installations and sculptures were also introduced, and by the end of the decade a host of impressive works were adding roadside lustre to the grandeur of Norway’s geography. A programme of rest stops, viewing platforms, bridges, walkways and restaurants was rolled out, with some jaw-dropping moments such as Tommie Wilhelmsen and Todd Saunders’ Aurland lookout.

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