Kvåfossen Visitor Centre
This incredible building in Lyngdal, Norway was opened In 2014 for a rather unusual purpose. This is a ‘salmon ladder’ - a series of pools through which salmon travel upstream to reach their spawning grounds. The building is adjacent to the Kvåfossen waterfalls, and despite its functional purpose, creates a beautiful space and a rather unique tourist attraction. Part of the ladder, an underground artificial pool, was included to allow the public to see the passing salmon. Due to the public interest and for practical reasons, a visitor centre was built on the site as well.
The plot just above the salmon ladder provides a spectacular location at the edge of a cliff with the Lynga River at the bottom. As such, the location itself and the visitors´ centre provide a striking contrast between being at the edge of the cliff, as opposed to down below in the underground salmon ladder. In addition, the centre is surrounded by dense oak woodland, which adds to the distinctive character of the location.
Inside, the minimalistic interior, with floor to ceiling windows looking out at the woodland and falls below, creates a spectacular, almost meditation-like space for visitors.
A part of the experience is to walk the path along the river up to the waterfall, cross an old bridge and pass through woodland back to the visitors centre. With the main road nearby, the building also needs to provide a screen, such that the landscape can be enjoyed without being disturbed by noise from traffic.
The setting is rather beautiful, and the architect has designed the building in a very sympathetic way, so that it sits comfortably in the natural surroundings.
Up in the visitor´s centre a natural favourite with the public is the area in the centre of the building, where you can sit by the window apparently on the edge of a dramatic cliff edge. The effect is enhanced by a sunken floor immediately in front of the window, provide a sitting area for visitors and a natural aesthetic towards the river below.
The different windows in the building provide varied views of the river as one moves along the cliff edge. The views towards the dense oak woodland outside give a varied light effect that is best experienced by moving a small distance away from the windows. Some of the light openings are formed as plain glass panes and present ”removal of wall areas”, whilst others have defined frames and present ”holes in the wall”. The latter are similar to traditional windows and contribute to the ambiguity between the traditional and the modern, which also interacts in the building´s exterior.
From the minimalist, clean lines of the visitor centre above, the infrastructure becomes deliberately more raws as it descends towards the salmon ladder located down below the metal spiral staircase. Here in the cavern below there is a dark, industrial feel, complete with dripping rock walls and a huge concrete pool where visitors can see the salmon as they swim upstream. Visitors can then walk right past the ladder itself to see the fish from very up close!
So one of the more unusual tourist attractions in Norway, but thanks to the incredible vision of the architects, they have delivered a beautiful place for visitors to feel close to nature.
Architects: Rever & Drage Architects
Design team: Tom Auger, Martin Beverfjord, Eirik Lilledrange
Photography by: Tom Auger