Thursday, March 10, 2011

Melding Architectural and Natural Beauty

Great story and slide show on the Fast Company Design Website about a $400 million, 18-year (so far) initiative to commission young (mostly) Norwegian architects to create extraordinary structures in some of Norway's most spectacular and wild natural settings - fjords, rivers, forests. These structures are not huge - They are modest (in scale, not design) walkways, observation platforms, rest houses. These are beautiful examples of how human intervention and structures can meld brilliantly with the landscape, and also how design and architecture can become a driver of tourism, and in ways that don't have to involve constructing enormous "architectural destination" buildings. So while it may seem like a lot of money, it has funded 120 sites and they are only halfway through the program. You can check out the slide show here, but I've included an image to provide a flavor of the program (the image is actually not from the slide show at Fast Company but from the Norwegian tourism website). This sure makes me way want to visit these places in Norway!

I can imagine something like this even in an urban setting like the Wissahickon area of Fairmount Park, along the Delaware or Schuykill, or some of the wilder areas of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Jody Pinto's Fingerspan in the Wissahickon (commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association) and the Morris Arboretum's new "Out on a Limb" Canopy Walk come closest to this in Philadelphia. Here is a picture of the Canopy Walk, which was designed by Metcalfe Architecture & Design, and recently won a 2010 Architectural Excellence Award from AIA Philadelphia :

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