Designed by two architects Todd Saunders & Tommie Wilhelmsen, the 33-metre "diving board" shooting out from the road into thin air above the Aurland Fjord in Norway. This Aurland Lookout project is part of a national program on tourist routes commissioned by the Norwegian Highway Department.
"The landscape is so fantastic that it is difficult to improve the place, but at the same time very easy to destroy the atmosphere by inserting too many elements into the site. Even though we have chosen an expressive form, the concept is a form of minimalism, in an attempt to conserve and complement the existing nature."
The site is above Aurland, a small town in Sogn og Fjordane, one of the larger fjords on the West Coast of Norway. Aurland is three hours drive from Bergen, Norway's second largest city. The client is the Norwegian Highways Department (Statens Vegvesen). Todd Saunders + Tommie Wilhelmsen were one of three architecture firms invited to deliver a design proposal for this site. They won first prize and worked on detail drawings for this project together with Engineer, Node Engineers, Bergen. The project was built in Fall 2005 and will have an official opening in June 2006.
The place has attracted people from all over the world. Todd Saunders + Tommie Wilhelmsen called their competition entry "640 m over Aurland and 20,120 km from Tokyo", keeping in mind the uniqueness of the place in the bigger picture.
The Place - the Nature
Nature first and architecture second was the guiding principal when architects sat down to design this project. It was immediately obvious to them that in such beautiful surroundings one must make the least possible encroachment in the existing landscape and terrain. The landscape is so fantastic that it is difficult to improve the place, but at the same time very easy to destroy the atmosphere by inserting too many elements into the site. Even though they have chosen an expressive form, the concept is a form of minimalism, in an attempt to conserve and complement the existing nature.
Today there are many people stopping at this site to enjoy the phenomenal views over the fjords. At times the areas gets filled with cars and tour busses. One of the first things we decided to do was to form a small parking area for 2 buses and 10 cars further up the road to help keep the place pure and not to disturb the look out. The construction is a bridge that one can go out onto, as a structure in the air. The structure is 4 m wide, 30 m long, and 9 m high out at the very end.
The Horizon and Dramatization
To make the situation even more dramatic it was important for Todd Saunders + Tommie Wilhelmse to create the experience of leaving the mountainside. They wanted people to come out in the air. The construction creates a distinct horizon; a bridge in the open room of this large fjord. It is imperative that the landscape and the vegetation not altered, but are protected so that one come out from the landscape and experience it from new standpoint.
The architects have managed to preserve all of the large pine trees on the site. This allows to create an interaction between the structure and nature. One can walk out into the air through the treetops, helping dramatises the experience of nature and the larger landscape room.