Architectural ‘Detour’ in PA


Stegastein in Aurland. Photo: Turistvegprosjektet, Vegard Moen.

Stegastein in Aurland. Photo: Turistvegprosjektet, Vegard Moen.

Road trips are often considered the best way to explore the scenery in foreign countries. By taking a detour on the road in Norway, you may find some surprising architectural gems. Now, some of these scenic highlights can be experienced without crossing the Atlantic. See the exhibit in Philadelphia June 5 – September 11 at The Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia.

Detour started in 1993 as a collaborative project between the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and the foundation Norsk Form. At the heart of the project lay a wish to integrate contemporary architecture into Norwegian landscapes. With this goal in mind, Norwegian and international architects and designers have over the past decade located 18 suitable tourist routes in Norway, and highlighted them by creating close to 200 innovative and visually appealing viewing platforms, resting points, and picnic areas along the roadsides.

Rather than simply promoting Norway’s well known natural attractions, the architects wanted to draw attention to interesting locations along the less trafficked roads, hopefully luring tourists off the beaten path. Like many recent architectural projects in Norway, the dynamic between these constructions and their immediate surroundings was at the forefront of the designers’ minds. In an article for Architectural Record, journalist David Sokol describes the project as a “dialogue with nature.”

Inspired by the initial success, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and Norsk Form wanted to bring these eye-catching constructions to those not able to travel to Norway. Now, instead of you having to make the detour – the detour exhibit travels to the United States. Curators Barbro Westling and Peter Johansson decided to look outside the perhaps obvious choice of crisp nature and stripped down architecture for inspiration when creating the traveling version of the exhibit. Instead, they looked to early tourism and early tourists’ penchant for “the mystical masterview” for ideas.

The exhibition displays a selection of the constructions through a striking brass-trimmed display case from the 1900s. The case, in the form of a rotunda, echoes Victorian England, and allows visitors to view the installations and their surroundings through binoculars. Models of the constructions have also been created, and are displayed in glass cases surrounding the rotunda, with explanatory posters.

The contrast between the sleek, modern design of the installations and the antique style of the rotunda adds to the unique experience of the exhibit. Those visiting the exhibition have expressed fascination at the feeling of entering another world when looking through the binoculars.

After having been shown in Berlin and Paris, the exhibit can be visited at the Norwegian Road Museum in Lillehammer throughout 2008. The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., will show the exhibit from January 29, 2009, and the exhibit will travel to other cities in North America in the fall next year, and into 2010.


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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.