How Ålesund, Norway Became an Architectural Icon
Did you know that Norway is one of the more interesting places to experience modern and contemporary architecture? In addition to the gorgeous natural environments, making fjords and mountains unmissable elements of a trip to Norway, there is the lesser known attraction of its architectural history.
It only makes sense that any tourist who has an interest in seeing unique buildings should make visiting some of the more visually stunning places like Bergen’s Hanseatic Bryggen or the Opera house in Oslo a must.
However, the town of Ålesund should be on the architecture buff’s travel itinerary. After all, it is known as the Art Nouveau town, which is not a title that is easily earned. Here is the story behind how a small Norway town went from being just another town to a world renowned architectural destination.
The Devastating Fire of 1904
Unfortunately, this incredible feat of design started because of a significant tragedy. On January 23rd, 1904, approximately 850 houses were completely burnt to the ground as the result of a raging fire that spread throughout the town. However, because of a group of budding architectural graduates, the town was able to be rebuilt within only three years.
Due to the timing of this massive rebuild, it happened to take place during the middle of the Art Nouveau movement. The result was hundreds of unique buildings that were intricately decorated with a variety of turrets, towers, and other spectacular ornaments. Although many other cities throughout Europe have buildings that resemble this short-lived architectural style, there are none that have quite this ratio of them.
What Is Art Nouveau Architecture?
This is a type of design that was widely popular between 1890 and 1910. It involves the heavy use of a-symmetrical lines the often resemble natural forms. They also tend to include more glass and iron than other buildings.
In addition to experiencing hundreds of these gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings in Ålesund, you can also walk into the town centre and take a look at some of the older wood buildings that managed to survive the tragic fire.
Beyond Buildings - Fjords and Mountains
There is much more than art nouveau, however, that makes Ålesund an attractive destination. Like Bergen further south on the coast is known as the “gateway to the fjords”, Ålesund takes the same role here 420 km to the north. The region of Møre & Romsdal has some spectacular mountain terrain for hiking. Actually you can start your hiking adventure just beyond “the city gates”, for instance on a combined kayak and hiking trip which allows you to get both the bird's eye as well as the "duck's eye" view (from the water) of the architecture.
The world famous Geirangerfjorden can be explored with a fjord cruise from Ålesund as well, an opportunity to make a stay in the town a perfect mix of nature and culture exploration!