In Norway, the scenic roads criss-crossing the rugged Arctic landscape are dotted with sculptural viewpoints that combine modern architecture and the natural beauty of the environment. Technically, these buildings are just rest stops, but there’s nothing average or perfunctory about them. They’re often bold and dramatic, becoming destinations in their own right. The Norwegian Scenic Routes project is set to have 200 picnic areas and viewpoints by 2023 with another 50 projects planned through 2029.
Some of these viewpoints jut out over the forest to gaze upon fjords. Others perch on the edge of mountains, or wind through rocky ledges on the coast. A new one in the country’s extreme northeast called Domen Viewpoint makes a memorable statement with a design inspired by telescopes. Set on a mountain peak in Vardø at Europe’s easternmost point, the structure, designed by Biotope, consists of three small structures with jagged white shapes that will blend into the snow in winter.
Biotope covered the outside of these structures with whitewashed pine panels, which will weather over time until their texture takes on a mottled quality similar to the rocky ledge they sit upon. Many structures in Scandinavia are made of pine, which grows locally and is prized there for the same reasons people love it here: its warmth, character, strength, straightness and ease of use. Inside the lookout, Biotope used Norwegian-made kebony wood, a modified, sustainably sourced softwood strengthened by heating the wood with furfural alcohol, an agricultural byproduct.
The dark interiors contrast with the white pine exteriors, creating dynamic lines that stand out even when the lookout is camouflaged by snow during the region’s long winters. Pink-tinted glass gives the views a rosy glow.
The architects are well known for creating structures like this. They’ve produced many pine lookouts, hiking shelters and bird hides, all designed to marry contemporary shapes and natural materials with scenic places. The firm says that for them, architecture is “a tool to protect and promote birds, wildlife and nature,” an approach that comes through in their work.