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Trollspotting, part 4

From the very beginning of this project – back in Seattle, when I was looking at the Tourist Routes Projects and starting to write my proposal for the Valle Scholarship – the idea of traveling the entire coast of Norway was very seductive.  Even after two months of living in Norway, and three weeks of driving, it still is.  So when I left Oslo on July 25, it only made sense to drive 2,300 km through Sweden and Finland (Suomi) to get back to Finnmark and the Varanger Tourist Route; to start over from the beginning and drive the entire coast.

Finnmark is the largest and least populated county in Norway – it is larger than Denmark, but only has 72,000 residents.  Human settlements date back over 10,000 years, and the Saami culture and people remain a significant part of life in the far north.  Of all the tourist routes, the projects along the Varanger route have the most direct ties to the local history, incorporating the Norwegian Witch Trials, German occupation during WWII, and the cultural conversion from Saami shamanism to Christianity into the three sites.

Gornitak – Architect: Margrete Friis, Landscape Architect: Berg & Dryning – a rest area, shelter, and WC that incorporates the ruins of a German munitions bunker and fuel dock into the architecture.  The project provides sheltered places to sit out of the wind and enjoy the view as well as two picnic sites with steel fireplaces closer to the water, encouraging exploration of the shoreline.

Nesseby – Landscape Architect: Inge Dahlman – a parking lot with stacked stone walls, seating, and illumination of the nearby church.  The project gives visual access to a small church (locked) on a small peninsula jutting out into Varangerfjorden.  Frankly, it’s a disappointing project.  The walls are nicely constructed, and the wood seating areas are cleanly detailed, but that’s about it.  The walls do little beyond defining the edges of the parking area, and there is no signage or information about the site’s history or ecology.  Rather than engage the visitor in the place and extend the experience beyond what you can see standing in one place, the project seems content to frame views of the church and the shoreline.  Of course, one can walk beyond the parking lot, however, the design makes no effort to draw you into the landscape or engage the visitor’s imagination.

Ceavccageadge – An independent cultural site that allows you to walk through Saami settlements, burial grounds, and sacrificial and religious sites along the coast.  I find it very interesting that this is not an official part of the national tourist routes – especially given the ties to local history that are celebrated at the other sites in Varanger.  It would seem to me that the Saami history, which is so strongly tied to Finnmark, would be just as compelling to highlight as a part of the NTR, if not more so, than the church at Nesseby or the German munitions shed at Gornitak.  However, it is not included, or even mentioned in Statens Vegvesen’s description of the route on their website.

Steilneset – Architect: Peter Zumthor, Artist: Louise Bourgeoise – I have written about the Steilneset memorial in an earlier post so I will spare you additional writing, however, here are some new photos of the completed memorial and burning sculpture.

Graduate student Jonathan French is in Norway to study the National Tourist Routes.  A project commissioned by the National Assembly, the National Tourist Routes are 18 designated stretches of scenic highway developed to promote tourism in rural communities.  The tourist routes utilize architecture, landscape architecture, and art to transform sites along each route into destinations in and of themselves, promoting excellent design and beautiful landscapes as a reasons to travel to Norway.  Viewed as a whole, the projects engage design, landscape, movement and cultural history in a manner that stitches together a contemporary expression of Norwegian national identity.

To keep up on Jonathan’s personal blog, visit : http://trollspotting.wordpress.com
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