Known as the land of the midnight sun; Norway is a mystical country that very few know much about. With folklore, mythology and Vikings being a rich heritage of this country, we can only imagine the entrancing sights that this European nation will have to offer. It is a country that is well known for its natural wonders from the Fjords that meander through the lands to the northern lights that people dream of laying eyes on, Norway is surely a scenic landscape straight out of a fairytale.   

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The Northern Lights dancing through one of the darkest skies in late august_©Stian Klo & Arild Heitmann / lofotentours.com

1. The Laerdal Road Tunnel

This underground tunnel stretches out at 24.5 kilometres, connecting the cities of Laerdal and Aurland, and it is a marvel for its high-end engineering that made it possible. It has sufficient lighting to coax the drivers from an unnerving experience and safety is prime here. A high-tech ventilation system, safety stations with emergency equipment and call boxes, and several man-made caves that are lit with coloured lights all ensure a safe journey through. All in all, it is indeed one of a kind but it isn’t the only tunnel road in Norway. The country has several such tunnels to allow faster access to its people who are isolated due to Fjords and valleys distancing them from one another. This inaccessibility led to the craze of digging tunnels through rocks, therefore it is very common to pass through these tunnels on your daily commute around Norway.

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The World’s Longest Road Tunnel known as Laerdal is in Norway_©Kenneth Rivenes

2. The Capital city – Oslo

This city is sometimes overlooked as it is smaller in size, compared to Stockholm or Copenhagen. However, for designers, there are many architectural marvels to look out for in this tiny city and it can be explored in less time and by foot which is just great for travelling architects looking to find innovative designs.

Firstly, the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art is a major eye-catcher as it is situated at the tip of the new borough of Tjuvholmen where it meets the Oslo Fjord and beautifully frames the landscape. Designed by famous architect Renzo Piano it consists of 3 pavilions that are brought together by a distinctive glass roof replicating a sail. 

Another sight is the Oslo Opera House, home to the Norwegian Opera and Ballet; it is designed by a Norwegian firm called Snøhetta. It can be visualized as a seamless connection between the fjord and the city; replicating a glacier that is rising from the sea creating a true metaphor to describe its surroundings. Other designs to look out for include; the Equinor Headquarters Building, Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower and The Barcode Project.

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The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art_ ©Martin Filler

3. The “Doomsday” Vault

It provides an otherworldly sight to architects who are interested in unique buildings that cater to bizarre functions. 130m deep inside a mountain is a vault that was built to protect global biodiversity as a part of a worldwide initiative to preserve seeds of important food crops. It was built such that the building is hidden deep into the permafrost to ensure that both natural and manmade disasters wouldn’t harm it so that it would endure, standing the test of time. However recent incidents have uncovered several design flaws that allowed water to breach into the vault’s access tunnel and it will receive an upgrade to ensure the safeguarding of these seeds.

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The Global Seed Vault in Svalbard_©Bjoertvedt / Wikimedia.com

4. Bergen

A small city that evokes the sense of the new and the old Bergen is a must-see for architects. Its true sense is seen in the Bergen station that is a mixture of Art Novae and Norway’s medieval architecture. This comes to play in the main hall, where the heavy stone walls are offset by the elegant roof and glass windows which shows off the station’s eye-catching element framed by the view of the mountains. Its streets are lined by colourful wooden and stone buildings from centuries ago, certainly taking us back in time.

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Bergen Station with a view to the mountains_ © Kamil Porembiński / Flickr

5. Karmøy Fishery Museum, Rogaland

This monolithic architecture is modern in every sense and like many of Norway’s buildings, it seems to hold a place of its own, cantilevered slightly above the northern sea horizon. A concrete tube-like structure was proposed that was accessible from both ends and the interior is an open space that can be flexibly recreated according to their needs.

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Karmøy Fishery Museum_©Sven Prinzler

6. Cathedral of the Northern Lights

It is an architectural landmark that pinpoints the area as the main sight to enjoy the northern lights from and accordingly symbolizes the natural phenomena in its architecture. John F. Lassen, Founding Partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects stated that “the cathedral reflects, both literally and metaphorically, the northern lights: ethereal, transient, poetic and beautiful. It appears as a solitary sculpture in interaction with the spectacular nature.” The rising spiral emulates the contoured lands and the facade cladded with titanium reflects the northern lights in the arctic winter darkness providing a surreal experience of the phenomenon.

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The Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects;_©Adam Moerk

7. Utsikten viewpoint, Gaularfjellet

This triangular viewing deck perched on the mountains is an architectural masterpiece that forms a stopping point for tourists and trekkers to rest and take in the beauty of the valleys. 

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The Utsikten translates as “the view”_© Jiri Havran

8. Borgund Stave Church

Borgund Stave Church was built around 1180 and 1250 AD with later additions and restorations done to preserve its legacy. The intricately carved portals and the roof carvings of dragon’s heads are unique features of this church that make it one of the most distinctive stave churches in the world. These are some of the prominent architectural contributions from Norway and  Norway’s oldest preserved timber buildings.

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Borgund Stave Church- Medieval architecture’s finest_©Finn Loftesnes

9. Eggum, Lofoten

Eggum is a rest area shaped like a classic amphitheatre and a perfect, popular spot for midnight sun spotting. Built into the landscape with natural stone it seems to create a vista of this natural surrounding.

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Eggum is a panoramic sight on the Vestvågøy island_ ©Destination Lofoten

10. The Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion, Dovre

The Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion is also called Viewpoint Snøhettaand it is situated on the outskirts of the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella national park. It is a rectangular shell with wooden cladding on the inside that is shaped to imitate an eroded piece of rock.

The Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion_ ©Ketil Jacobsen

Reference List:

  • Sager, Anna Karin (2020). 30 Things Norway Is Known and Famous For. [online]. 20 Aug 2020. Available at: www.heyexplorer.com/what-is-norway-famous-for/. Accessed at: 25 June 2021. 
  • Ranjan Pal (2019). Oslo: A Design Lover’s Guide to the Fascinating Capital of Norway. [online]. Architectural Digest India, 5 Oct 2019, Available at: www.architectural digest.in/content/Oslo-guide-design-lovers-Norway/. Accessed at: 25 June 2021.
  • Hans Petter Smeby. Top 10 Offbeat Norwegian Architecture. [online]. Available at: www.visitnorway.com/things-to-do/art-culture/architecture/top-10-off-beat-norwegian-architecture/. Accessed at: 28 June 2021.
  • Ketil Jacobsen. The Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion [Photograph]. 
  • Destination Lofoten. Eggum [Photograph]. 
  • Finn Loftesnes. Borgund Stave Church [Photograph].
  • Jiri Havran. The Utsikten [Photograph].
  • Adam Moerk. The Cathedral of the Northern Lights [Photograph].
  • Sven Prinzler. Karmøy Fishery Museum [Photograph].
  • Kamil Porembiński. Bergen Station [Photograph]. Flickr.com
  • Bjoertvedt. The Global Seed Vault in Svalbard [Photograph]. Wikimedia.com
  • Martin Filler. The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art [Photograph].
  • Kenneth Rivenes. The Laerdal [Photograph].
  • Stian Klo & Arild Heitmann. The northern lights [Photograph]. lofotentours.com
Author

Mary is a final year B.Arch. student eager to find her place in the multiverse that is architecture. She believes that words have a hidden ability to inspire, providing an in-depth perception. Deeply passionate about preserving the natural world and its heritage, she also finds solace in penning down her thoughts, travelling and enjoys being cooped up with a good book.

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