Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhelmsen won the competition on invitation for Aurland with a project, which is, surprisingly, more than just a lookout. The common aim shared by the landscape architectures proposed by all the studios invited to participate in the project was clearly construction of a preferential observation site: a location that commonly presupposes an attitude of abnegation on the part of the architecture in order to prevent it from standing out and disturbing the perfect natural equilibrium of the site.
In this case the architects managed to overcome the intrinsic difficulties inherent in spontaneously setting their own boundaries on the project with a construction that is strictly tied to the local landscape but acts as a true “ski jump” for the eyes, of interest in its own right for its great immediacy.
The lookout point, which will no doubt remind Norwegians of a ski jump, is a structure composed of arches of local wood which rises from the road out over the emptiness of the valley, anchored to the ground exclusively through two steel supports at its base. The absence of any other supporting element surrounding the walkway creates an effect of suspension over the abyss which culminates in the curve of the arch at one end: the onlooker is encouraged to contemplate the void, from which he is separated solely by a plate of glass on the curve. The architecture, which blends into the setting of the fjord and does not require a single one of the pines in the forest below to be cut, is as immediate in its form as it is attentive to details, such as the way the boards fit into each other and the design of the steel parapets.
by Mara Corradi
Design: Todd Saunders & Tommie Wilhelmsen
Client: Norwegian Transport Department
Location: Aurland (Norway)
Structural design: Node AS
Landscape design: Todd Saunders & Tommie Wilhelmsen
Completion of work: 2006
Construction firm: Veidekke AS, Sogndal
Structure made of local wood 4 metres wide, 30 metres long and 9 metres high
Photographs: © Nils Vik, Todd Saunders