Allmannajuvet in Norway was once the center of Norway’s nascent zinc mining industry, a labor-intensive process that saw the ore dragged out of deep tunnels and thrown off the cliff, a part of Norway’s mining past The resulting shattered chunks were then shipped to Wales for processing.
Opened in 1881, barely two decades went by before zinc prices changed and these labor intensive methods were no longer viable. The site fell into disrepair. During 1882 1n3 1898 the Allmannajuvet mines produced over 12,000 tonnes of zinc ore.
The abandoned zinc mines from the late 1800s have inspired the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor to create yet another historical art installation along the Norwegian National Tourist Routes.
With one structure that hangs off a wall and two that are raised on stilts over a steep cliffside,
Zumthor has created three buildings at the old Allmannajuvet zinc mines in Sauda, which were in use for just 18 years at the end of the 19th century.
Since its inception in 1994, Norway’s National Tourist Route Program has blended infrastructure, heritage and design innovation with landscape. To date, there are 18 established routes, criss-crossing the coastline and interior of this spectacularly beautiful country. The roads themselves are rarely less than stunning – when passable – but it’s the rest stops and attractions along the way that have elevated the initiative into a grand architectural experiment.
Zumthor’s installation includes a cafe, a service building and a museum dedicated to mining history.
The cafe and museum are raised up over the craggy landscape on a grid of timber supports, while the service building – containing toilets and parking facilities – is perched on the side of a stone wall. All of these structures are made up of three main elements: a simple black box, an encasing support structure made from wood, and a corrugated zinc roof canopy.
Allmannajuvet, with its characteristic landscape and rich cultural history, is one of the 10 largest attractions along the National Tourist Routes. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration commissions architects and designers to create bold contemporary interventions in the landscape – often in order to enhance a viewpoint or commemorate an event or the history of the site.
In 2002, world- renowned architect Peter Zumthor was commissioned to design a tourist route attraction for the purpose of welcoming visitors and bringing the old mining history of Sauda back to life.
A fourth building was also constructed as part of the complex, in a slightly different style to the other three. It marks the entrance into the mine for tourists.
The simplistic buildings are inspired by the mining operation, the drudgery and the workers’ strenuous everyday lives. All the buildings were prefabricated in Saudasjøen and then assembled in Allmannajuvet. The exterior support system consists of creosote impregnated laminated wood. The exterior walls of the building consist of 18 mm plywood sheets and jute burlap, coated with a German acrylic material (PMMA). The parking facility has been masoned with natural stone from Hardanger. The stones were transported from Jondal to Sauda. The visible corner of the wall is approximately 18 meters tall and has been firmly fixed three meters to the riverbed.
This isn’t the first project Zumthor has worked on for the National Tourist Routes. A few years ago, he worked with artist Louise Bourgeois to create the Steilneset Memorial, commemorating suspected witches who were burned at the stake.
From the outset, the steep-sided fjords, mighty waterfalls and epic sweeps of coastline can withstand even the boldest architectural intervention, from Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk’s sinuous Sohlbergplassen viewing point at Atnsjøen lake in Rondane, to the abstract scattered forms of the Kleivodden rest area in the far north, by Landskapsfabrikken and Inge Dahlman, and Todd Saunders’ celebrated Aurland Lookout.
The Allmannajuvet gorge lies along the Ryfylke National Tourist Route, a picturesque stretch of road that runs east-west from just outside Stavanger in the south to Røldal.
This was not a project that needed to be rushed. Construction started back in 2011, but discussions about the site began nearly ten years earlier.
The complex was officially opened in September 2016.
Norway’s Mining Past, written by Tor Kjolberg
All photos: Per Berntsen