Hanging from the clouds, floating above the world
CYNTHIA ELYCE RUBIN
The Norwegian American
It’s not difficult to understand how The Bolder Sky Lodges, or The Bolder, with its spectacular panoramic view of the Lysefjord in southwestern Norway, got its name.
When entrepreneur Tom Norland purchased the land in 2010, he initially planned to construct a series of small hermit huts. But he soon came to decide the exceptional panorama and the land needed something more daring, more special. Nature was, after all, challenging and bold.
“My intention was to give visitors a front-row view to one of the best-known fjords in the world. The border between inside and outside had to be blurred to convey the feeling of floating in nature,” he recounted.
And so, John Birgal Grytdal, architect at Norgeshus, a construction company in Sandefjord, accepted the challenge. His design consists of two one-legged structures perched high above the fjord like a bird’s nest in a tree. Looking down, the entire world seems to be visible. This is a true bird’s-eye view!
Grytdal designed a two-story cabin, balancing it on a steel pillar drilled into the ground. He added glazing and wrapped the cabin in Canadian cedar, keeping the raw winter outside.
“The cubes are intentionally placed on the edge of the sloping mountain,” Grytdal explained, “It’s like standing in a glass elevator with the familiar sinking feeling.”
Inside the lodges, the living space includes two double bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen space, and a living room.
With ceiling and walls of dark oak and a dark-toned decor, the interior was designed to complement the outside landscape by Vipp, the Danish design company in Copenhagen known for creating tools for living, including accessories, furniture, and kitchens.
The timeless aesthetic fits the concept of architecture in nature. Built on one column to minimize their footprints, the cabins are a concept that works to highlight minimum impact on the land. It’s conservation at its best.
The surrounding mountains are filled with pine trees and boulders placed by the glacier when the Ice Age came to an end.
In 2017, David Nikel in his Moon Norway guidebook to Norway writes, “Despite the fame enjoyed by the fjords between Bergen and Ålesund farther north, the Lysefjord has long been called the most beautiful of Norway’s fjords by poets, writers, and painters.”
But it wasn’t always so. French author Victor Hugo wrote Toilers of the Sea in which he describes the fjord’s scenery after a visit in 1866: “The Lyse-Fiord is the most terrible of all the gut rocks of the ocean. Their terrors are there complete … The water is black and heavy, and subject to intermitting storms. In this sea, and in the midst of this solitude, rises a great somber street—a street for no human footsteps. None ever pass through there; no ship ever ventures in.”
The name Lysefjord means “light fjord” and is said to derive from the light-colored granite rocks along its sides. It is known for the huge, almost flat-topped Preikestolen cliff overlooking the fjord, a major tourist destination for the region. Not only is the fjord long and narrow in places, it is as deep as the mountains are high. Because of the mountainous terrain, the fjord is sparsely populated with only two villages, Forsand and Lysebotn, located at opposite ends of the fjord.
Workers at the hydroelectric plants at Lyse and Tjodan, both built inside the mountains, mostly populate Lysebotn, located at the fjord’s far eastern end. These two power plants provide electricity for more than 100,000 people.
A spectacular road includes a series of 27 hairpin curves, with a long tunnel inside the mountain, the only road access to Lysebotn from the outside world.
As one can imagine, Lysefjord is a popular tourist attraction and a pleasant day trip from Stavanger. Cruise ships travel the full distance of the fjord.
At the end of the fjord lies the tall Kjerag mountain, another popular hiking destination with an iconic spherical rock that sits in a crevice along the trail.
The jewel in the crown, nonetheless, is nearby Preikestolen, Pulpit Rock, known as Huvlatonnå in Old Norse, a name that referred to a woodworker’s plane’s tooth.
Later, in the 19th century, a sportsman named Thomas Peter Randulf saw the cliff while sailing on the Lysefjord and noticed its resemblance to a preacher’s pulpit. The name took hold. Prekestolen (without the “I”) was coined around 1900 when the Stavanger Turistforening wanted to promote the site for hiking. The “I” was added later to comply with Nynorsk, the official form of Norwegian, and the site is now known as Preikestolen.
More than 10,000 years ago, the large glacier whose weight shaped Lysefjord began to melt. The water from the melting glacier forced its way through the mountain crevices, slowly chiseling away whole blocks out of the fjord’s mountainsides.
The moving glacier carried away enormous blocks of earth, leaving Pulpit Rock, an imposing and unique natural sculpture as its farewell gift. Seen from above, the intimidating appearance is almost square on top, a perfect platform for hikers to admire the view. Tourism at the site has been increasing steadily, and today some 200,000 visitors yearly (notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic) make it one of the most visited natural attractions in Norway.
One with nature
Like all of Norway’s 18 scenic routes, there is a considerable effort to complement architecture with nature. The Norwegian Scenic Route Ryfylke is one of the longer of Norway’s Scenic Routes. These routes offer exceptional scenic experiences, passing through some of the country’s most magnificent landscapes.
Along the way are viewpoints and picnic areas, designed to enhance the pleasure of travelers and for the good of nature to fit in with the surrounding scenery. The Norwegian Scenic Route Ryfylke is an exciting encounter with the very best of Fjord Norway. Ryfylke’s three celebrated attractions are the Lysefjord, Preikestolen, and the Kjerag, all a fine setting for the Bolder—itself only a 15-minute drive to Preikestolen. Thus, the Bolder engages in the picturesque beauty of the region’s surroundings and even adds to its splendor.
In the future, Tom Norland wants to go even further, to do something new and different and amazing. I have read that he is working with the architectural firm Snøhetta to design a restaurant and more. Having written about Snøhetta’s restaurant design in “Under: much more than a restaurant” (see the April 15, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American), I am certain that whatever the design and concept is, it will be out of this world, a place where one can become one with nature, one that has a history of thousands of years.
This article originally appeared in the May 21, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.