Generally, roadside rest areas are a place you want to get in and out of quickly as possible. A quick leg stretch, a snack and the compulsory visit to the lavatory — and then you’re off again. But at one highly scenic highway pit stop on Norway’s rugged northern coast, motorists will find themselves wanting to stick around long after nature calls.
Joining a growing number of transcendent pubic bathrooms, the Ureddplassen rest area is a bona fide tourist attraction that just happens to revolve around a toilet. Located in the Gildeskål municipality along the Helgelandskysten, the longest and perhaps most challenging of Norway’s 18 scenic routes for small-bladdered travelers, Ureddplassen doesn’t need to try hard to be beautiful. The surroundings — glistening fjords, pristine forests and majestic, snow-capped mountains — do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to atmosphere. It could consist of a half-dilapidated outhouse and still look gorgeous.
However, Oslo-based design studio Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter (HZA) and landscape architect Inge Dahlman have gone out of their way to create a singular, architecturally significant rest area, complete with curvaceous bathroom facility, that melds into the surrounding landscape. It’s first and foremost a place to pee ... but also a place to be completely awestruck.
Recently unveiled following a nearly $2 million overhaul, Ureddplassen is a project of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens vegvesen), which describes the facility as a "place for a short break, a nice rest and a picnic, or for long nights with midnight sun or northern lights." Reactions to the rest area international press from the international press has been understandably fulsome with the Telegraph declaring Ureddplassen as "the world's most beautiful loo" and New Atlas calling it "our new number one place to drop a number two."
Most visitors to Ureddplassen will no doubt first make a beeline toward the toilet itself; it's located in the rest area's sole building, a compact, wave-shaped structure clad in translucent glazed glass walls. While those seeking total privacy may take issue with a lavatory that’s semi-transparent, there’s something comforting, reassuring about a public restroom that glows from within when set against a moody, cloud-shrouded landscape located just north of the Arctic Circle. It’s a bathroom that doubles as a beacon.
After finishing their business and stepping out of the loo, motorists can take in unobstructed views of Fugløyfjorden, a fjord framed in a most dramatic fashion by a series of craggy mountain peaks — the so-called Lofoten Wall — that appear to emerge straight from the sea.
Since it’s the kind of view that might make some travelers weak in the knees, several benches crafted from locally sourced Norwegian Rose marble can be found on the poured concrete viewing terrace. For those who feel like stretching their legs a bit, an amphitheatre-esque flight of stairs — perfect for walking or sitting — lead straight down to a tranquil beach.
"The view from the steps is unique and there is ample seating well protected from traffic noise,” Steinar Skaar, route manager for Helgelandskysten, explains in a media release. "Together with the local contractor, we have succeeded in emphasising the qualities that the architect and the landscape architect intended. In particular the concrete works in connection with the building and the amphitheatre have been complicated, but we are very satisfied with the results."
In an addition to the distinctive loo and places to take in the stunning views, Ureddplassen is also home to a monument remembering the 42 lives lost when the submarine "Uredd" hit a German mine and sunk in Fugløyfjorden during World War II. First erected in 1987, two years after the wreckage of the vessel was discovered, the monument has been relocated to this new "dignified" location and given a new marble base that complements the nearby benches.
While Ureddplassen might be the newest star attraction along the 268-mile-long Helgelandskysten, a route that entails a half-dozen ferry trips and passes by Norway’s second largest glacier, it certainly isn’t the first high-design public bathroom commissioned by Statens vegvesen for the Norwegian Scenic Routes network.
As noted by Dezeen, the 98-mile-long Hardanger route features a public lavatory complete with a glass-bottomed floor panel that looks straight down into the swirling cascades of the Skjervsfossen waterfall. If that's not effective natural encouragement for a bladder-emptying session after a long car ride, than I'm not sure what else is.
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