Trollstigen Visitor Centre by Reiulf Ramstad Architects, Norway
This year's unusually cold Norwegian spring has tried its best to put a spanner in the works for the opening of the new Trollstigen Visitor Centre. Snow was falling as late as the first weekend of June, so when Wallpaper* visited the site a few days later, the workmen were busy clearing metres of snow and ice from the building's sloping roofs.
The Visitor Centre, which opened last weekend, is a new addition to the existing Trollstigen Viewing Platform, both designed by Reiulf Ramstad Architects, and is part of the National Tourist Routes in Norway. Situated in a mountain pass - at an elevation of around 850 metres - between the towns of Valldal and Åndalsnes in Western Norway, the Trollstigen Visitor Centre and Viewing Platform provides spectacular views of the Trollstigen road - the 'Troll Ladder'.
With an incline of nine percent and 11 tight hairpin bends winding down a steep mountainside, the road opened in 1936 after eight years of construction. It has subsequently become one of Norway's most popular tourist attractions.
The central building of the Visitor Centre contains a café and information point. Designed to resemble the shapes of the surrounding mountain peaks, it is formed from two shells and built from glass, steel and concrete to cope with the violent mountain climate. The shells fold across each other to provide a glass-walled shelter with spectacular views of the landscape. The building's surfaces alternate between being as smooth as ice and as rough as rocks, echoing the complex natural forms of the Norwegian mountain landscape.
The other building, containing service facilities, a kiosk and a souvenir store, is structured like a defensive wall, acting as a manmade flood barrier for when the crystal-clear River Istra soars with meltwater during the spring.
In fact, water has been a key element in the architectural design. A series of stepped pools with angular thresholds that expand the water's surface, help control the flow of the river around the new buildings. 'Much of the uniqueness of Nordic culture, and Norwegian culture in particular, is based on our relationship to water,' says Reiulf Ramstad. 'At Trollstigen, water can be experienced as snow on the mountains, as a glistening mirror, as a swirling but controlled cascade or as a dramatic waterfall, all of which is reflected in the Visitor Centre's design.'