Ain't no mountain high enough

(14.07.2009) Two NTNU architecture students have taken on an unusual master's degree design project: they've created and constructed an aluminium sided viewpoint and refuge with stunning views in a wild valley in coastal Norway outside of Sunndal. It's just one of several mountain design projects at the faculty.


NTNU students have also been invited by a local trekking association to help envision a new mountain cabin to replace an existing structure (pictured above) at nearly 1400 m. that has been battered by more than a century of wind, snow and ice.

Shelter in a storm -- and more
The aluminium sided refuge, which is pictured in a slideshow from the local newspaper, Tidens Krav, is called "Ly", which means shelter, and was built with the help of eight other NTNU architecture students and the students' advisor, Julio Torracchi. The structure clings to the side of the steep Torbudalen valley, and is accessible from an abandoned 100-year old railroad right of way that was built in connection with the Aura hydropower station in 1913. The aluminium the students used is in recognition of the area's heritage – electricity from the Aura station powers Hydro Aluminium's smelters in nearby Sunndalsøra.

A 100-year old rail line
"When we look at the work that was done here just 100 years ago, we feel like lightweights", commented Ingrid Nerass Dahl, an NTNU architecture student, who with Christoffer Imislund led the work as their master's design project. "Up here they worked year round with sledgehammers and crowbars, and they built a railroad line in the mountains, a lift in Litjdalen from Dalaråa to Toppheis, and kilometer long tunnels in the mountains. Unbelievable."

The refuge is also accessible from the Aursjøveien, a spectacular 100-km toll road that winds its way from Sunndalsøra up through Litjdalen and then down to Eikesdalen through a series of 180 degree hairpin turns. The shelter will be removed in a year.

Airy, but not alone
Dahl and Imislund's effort may be one of the more airy of NTNU architecture student projects, but it is not the only one that is linked to Norway's picturesque high mountains.

The Drammens and Oplands Trekking Association (DOT), a branch of the national Norwegian Trekking Association, invited 15 architecture students to help them plan for the replacement of Høgevarde, (pictured above), a mountain hut at 1390 msl with some of Norway's most expansive views over Jotunheimen, Rondane and Hardangervidda national parks. The oldest section of the hut was built in 1893, and more than a century of snow, ice and rain have taken their toll on the structure.

A hut for the future
"We wanted a hut built for the future, but it's quite difficult to think in new ways when we are steeped in so much tradition here", said Henning Wikborg, DOT head, to Fjell og Vidda, an outdoors magazine published by the Norwegian Trekking Association. "The architectural help from Trondheim helps us to see non-traditional alternatives."

The fifteen students have used roughly 15000 hours to come up with three alternative designs that are suited to the fragile mountain area. The DOT will evaluate the merits of the three designs over the autumn, although Høgevard's replacement date has not yet been set.