Client: Statens Vegvesen, Østfold fylkeskommune, Sarpsborg kommune og Fredrikstad kommune
Architect: Saunders Architecture - Bergen, Norway
Team architects: Todd Saunders, Mats Odin Rustøy, Inês Moço Pereira, Mathias Kempton, Attila Béres, Joseph Kellner, Michaela Huber, Greg Poliseo
Consultants: General contractor: Veidekke ASA
Construction management: Sweco Norge AS, Karin Anja Arnesen
Structural engineer: Sweco Norge AS, Per Jo Treimo
Electrical engineer: Sweco Norge AS, Bjørnar Isaksen
Mechanical engineer: Sweco Norge AS, Liv Normann
Glazing consultants: Saint-Gobain Bøckmann AS, Henrik Ronneberg Nilsen,Trond Karlsen
Steel consultants: Jotne Mekaniske Verksteder AS, Terje Johannessen, Helge Thorsen, Vidar Larsen, Stein Aune
Landscape architects: Kristin Berg, Statens Vegvesen
Graphic designer/info graphics & illustration: Camilla Holcroft
Size: 2,000 square meters
Location: Sarpsborg, Østfold, Norway
Status: Completed September 2010
What can an architect do when he is given a blank canvas? Wonders! Solberg Tower and Rest Area by Saunders Architecture was approached in 2004 by the Norwegian Highway Department together with the Regional Government for a new project in Sarpsborg - a green, flat and calm piece of South Norway and a traditional stopover for travelers on the route to and from Sweden. However, no one had predetermined the commission’s particular needs! According to Saunders the project leaders were very well informed of his work, but in reality they had a vague idea of what program should be followed; in a way, the program was formulated by the architect as he came up with the program himself, it was very free, open to ideas and overall a very creative process!
In order to identify the program and develop the most advantageous architectural program and design solution Saunders Architecture worked closely with the client. Through thorough study of the site, careful attention being paid to the given parameters, and with an aim to identify the challenges and the advantages in order to define the given problems and the opportunities Saunders Architecture came about with the program - a ‘green’ resting place. Among the disadvantages and problems of the given site was the highway’s speed and the noise which would enhance the traveler’s need for a break, so that they could reconnect with nature and get a first taste of Norway. Sarpsborg is of the first districts that a traveler encounters once they enter Norway from Sweden. It was of outmost importance that the traveler and his family or friends would be able to slow down, stop by, and spend some high-quality time discovering the Norwegian countryside; the local forest and coastline form a attractive, yet largely unknown part of the country. The reconnection was achieved with the architectural design of the ‘green’ resting space, which was the most favorable program given the existing situation.
In order to isolate the ‘green’ resting area from the highway speed and noise, a low walled ramp was constructed which spirals around the rest area; the low walled ramp encloses a 2,000 square meter area, and defines the borders of the site. Spring-flowering fruit trees adorn the courtyard, while seven small pavilions showcase information of the local rock carvings from the Bronze Age, an exhibition which continues on the ramp’s walls. The seven small pavilions were designed by Saunders Architecture while graphic designer Camilla Holcroft fashioned the graphics. According to Saunders, the adjacent forest is bursting of rock carvings but no one is familiar about their existence as everyone just drives through trying to get to Oslo. Furthermore, the seven pavilions can be alternatively used for temporary artist exhibitions.
Incorporated to the program and the existing seven pavilions is a 30-meter simple nine-storey look-out tower. The uniformity and the evenness of the landscape predetermined the design of the look-out tower, as the beauty of the surrounding landscape and the magnificent Norwegian countryside could not be enjoyed unless it was given a certain height. Therefore, the development of the tower was quickly incorporated as one of the main elements of the brief. The ramp’s asymmetrical walls rise from 0 – 4 meters and then form the 30 meter simple nine–storey-tall structure on the site’s northern edge, including only a staircase and an elevator. The look-out tower was named Solberg – translating to ‘Sun Mountain’ – the tower’s aerial views towards the close by shoreline and the Oslo fjord are beyond doubt thespian.
The overall design scheme was shaped in relation to the environs’ existing architecture; geometrical contemporary shapes, with minimal design were selected, contrasting the local farming villages’ more traditional forms. Materials such as the attractively-ageing CorTen steel for the exterior walls and warm oiled hard wood for the courtyard’s design elements and information points, local slate and fine gravel pave the ground level. Highlighting the area’s abundant natural and historical attractions, sustained by strong architectural forms, Saunders Architecture formed a multifaceted, in direct response to both the clients’ and site’s requirements. The teamwork, the formation and the identification of the program and the cooperation between several municipalities, the regional government and the national highways department, led to the successful completion of Sarpsborg.