Aurland, Sogn og Fjordane, Bergen, Norway

The Aurland Lookout, also known as Stegastein, was conceived as part of a nation-wide Norwegian project meant to promote and enhance the country's spectacular landscape through a series of architectural viewpoints and rest stops. The viewing platform overlooks Aurland, a small town in Sogn og Fjordane, one of the larger fjords on the West Coast, three hours’ drive from Bergen, Norway's second largest city.

Saunders Arkitektur were one of the three architectural firms invited to participate in the competition. The architects produced quick concept sketches, put together a design strategy and detailed the project over the course of three weeks focusing on the simplicity of one line. They called their competition entry '640 metres over Aurland and 20,120 kilometres from Tokyo', suggesting the uniqueness of the place in the bigger picture.

The goal was to prioritize nature, have a minimum impact on the existing landscape and terrain. Although impressive by design, 30 metres long, 4 metres wide and 9 metres tall at its peak, the structure had little impact on the environment. Built of structural steel and a concrete footing, the construction seems to embrace nature. The minimalist architecture complements the splendid views of the surroundings. The elevated walkway appears to enable visitors to step into the abyss, an effect achieved by the end glass balustrade and the curvature of the structure. The 1.2 metres high end balustrade, runs across the width of the platform and is slightly angled to minimize reflections and enhance the unobstructed viewing experience for the visitors. The adventure is further dramatized by the floating effect over the slope of large pine trees conserved during development, such as a treetop walk out in the open. The structure is clad in flat and curved pine timber. A galvanized steel handrail follows the wooden walls along the entire structure, transitioning from practical to architectural feature.

The construction of the project was prioritized due to the immediate international attention and awards it amassed, right from the concept stages. The lookout was officially opened in June 2006, although construction was completed in November 2005. Images courtesy of Saunders Architects.

Project Credits
Architect: Saunders Arkitektur
Technical Advisors: Node AS, Bergen
Road Engineer: Asplan Viak