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The making of Juvet

The Juvet Landscape Hotel would never have come to fruition if it hadn’t been for a series of coincidences:

• The owner of the hotel, Knut Slinning, bought himself a holiday retreat and cabin by Gudbrandsjuvet in Valldal in 1986.

• The Norwegian government implemented a major National Tourist Routes project on the stretch from Trollstigen to Geiranger. This brought the architects Jensen & Skodvin to Gudbrandsjuvet where they met Knut Slinning. The architects had ideas for a completely new and exciting type of hotel.

• In 2005, Knut received an offer to buy the hidden gem of Burtigarden. The rest is history.

Without the investment in the National Tourist Routes project – stretches of road that have more than the sole aim of getting you to your destination as quickly as possible – Juvet Landscape Hotel would never have been built.

Since its inception, the road project has engaged over 60 prominent architects and artists to devise exciting and functional viewing areas (with service buildings, car parks, furniture, paths and artworks), featuring modern architecture that will be durable and “grow old gracefully” along selected stretches of road in Norway.

The architects Jensen & Skodvin have made the popular Gudbrandsjuvet even more spectacular and accessible to the public.


A “love child” of the NT project
The Juvet Landscape Hotel project was a significant experiment, and it would never have succeeded if many of those who could (and were entitled to) oppose it – such as Norddal municipality, Møre og Romsdal county, Innovation Norway and those in the neighbouring town – had not acquiesced instead.

Special thanks are owed to the municipality’s environment and planning department. The possibility to build on the river bank of a permanently protected waterway was not to be taken for granted. Without the project support from the National Tourist Routes (NT) investment, there would have been no Juvet Landscape Hotel. We might say that Juvet is the love child of NT. Without the positive response from Norddal municipality, support from Innovation Norway and exceptionally good neighbours, this project would have been impossible to realise.

Experiment or not, Juvet Landscape Hotel is now a well-conceived reality that emphasises proximity to nature, and those encounters with culture and the environment, both large and small.



The farmer and hotelier at Burtigarden today was born and raised in the art nouveau city of Ålesund, just 90 minutes by car from Gudbrandsjuvet at Alstad in Valldalen. His life in Valldalen started in 1986 when he bought the holiday home, Sans Souci, from some people from Oslo who, early in the previous century, had acquired a site for a villa with 0.5 hectares of land on the hill directly above the Burtigarden farmhouse.

Sans Souci means carefree. For Knut and his family, the cabin and the area around it became a welcome refuge from the fast pace and pressures of daily life. They went there to relax, unwind, and feel their anxieties, worries and stress melt away. Here, they could step out into the mountains, into the wild, untouched landscape and enjoy the immediate closeness to nature that they craved.

The contrast is marked. Fear and anxiety were likely to have been a major part of daily life for those who lived in that particular place two hundred years ago. At that time, there was a tenant farm forming part of Burtigarden, and records tell us that the poor, landless people who lived here would often have gone to bed hungry.

Knut calls this place his Soria Moria. “Soria Moria castle” features in a Norwegian fairytale about a poor hero who went on a long journey and found both wealth and a lost princess. In Norway, the story symbolises a journey towards perfect happiness – the sort of happiness that can be found in a little tenant farm in Alstad.

A strange feeling

“I am very aware that I must not ruin my Soria Moria and turn it into a workplace associated with problems,” says Knut, a masters graduate in business and finance and former business and finance teacher. But what could he do? People in Burtigarden and upper Valldal had become familiar with this man who had wandered the area for 20 years, either on mountain hikes in sturdy leather boots or enjoying skiing in the valley below the mountain at Trollstigen plateau at his favourite time of year. One day in 2005, when he was out in the farmyard at Burtigarden, he received an offer he couldn’t refuse:
“Since you’re so fond of the place, would you like to buy Burtigarden?”

It took just two weeks for the contract to be signed after meeting with the architects and receiving the offer to take over Burtigarden. Suddenly, Knut was the owner of a large farm with an obligation to live there and run it, and ready to embark on a project the outcome of which was unknown.

It was a strange feeling. Knut presided over a narrative with various strands, one from the past which told him how it had been, one from the present which told him that the lights were gradually going out in rural Norway, and another which showed the way to a new future at Alstad.

This path to the future was not too far away. Behind the mountain, a wonderful reconstruction of the tourist destination and viewing point of Gudbrandsjuvet was taking place. The architects from Jensen & Skodvin brought with them innovative and arresting designs for both the viewing paths and service area.

“No matter how suitable the circumstances had been, the Juvet Landscape Hotel would not have been realised without the huge national investment in our tourist routes – which brought architects here who had already drafted ideas for an amazing hotel,” says Knut.


Everything changed

Knut said “yes” to the people in Burtigarden, and “yes” to the architects. And so began a new journey: a new fairytale for a new era. Instead of tending to animals and producing food, Burtigarden now takes care of people, and provides them with memorable experiences. Showing hospitality is important to Knut, who has understood this well in the process of getting to where he is today.

“At its heart, tourism revolves around taking good care of people, so that they come away feeling positive. Here they will get a taste of the old and the new. Perhaps they will even rediscover a part of themselves, too,” says Knut.

The time since Knut assented to the project has been hectic, but now he says that things are beginning to shape up the way he had hoped and dreamed. The farm buildings are now restored and present an historic framework around the modern landscape space that has emerged. This is made up of nine small “cubes” on stilts with glass walls facing the scenery – a scenery so diverse that none of the rooms are alike. The landscape is also in constant flux, according to the weather, the time of day and the season.

The final two landscape rooms were completed in spring 2013, and are a departure from the others. The two small cubes, fashioned after storehouses, hang like birdhouses in the slope above the farm, awaiting migrating birds.

“It has been important for us to take care of the traditional farm environment and cultural landscape while we carefully make way for the new, says Knut. – But even as we take care of the old, we won’t forget that we are also a part of history. The architecture and the aesthetics should clearly show that we have been here too,” says Knut.


Soria Moria

So what has happened to Knut’s Soria Moria, his refuge? Has anything been lost along the way?

Knut has thought a lot about this and has been conscious of it throughout the entire process.

“It comes down to me having something that is very precious to me, and I would like to share that with others. Sharing it doesn’t diminish that for me, quite the opposite,” says Knut.

Previously, it was family and friends who had a chance to take part in what was so valuable to him. Now, the circle has been expanded, gradually and by degrees. Each step in the process leading up to now has endowed him with new experiences, fresh insights and gifts.

“Now I want to share what I have with all of those who are curious about what we stand for in our exotic corner of the world. A lot of work has gone into getting to where we are today, but there is so much pleasure to be found in taking care of people who really appreciate what we have here and what we stand for. If something has been lost along the way, I have no regrets. I have found so much that is valuable too,” says Knut.


Architecture touching nature

Has Knut Slinning succeeded in creating a hotel that is out of the ordinary, a hotel that provides his guests with the peace, joy and closeness to nature that he intended? Knut says he can see the effect on his guests who visit the hotel.

“A peace descends on them when they come to the farm and can stroll around the area and find their rooms. Their shoulders drop. People come to find this sense of tranquillity,” says Knut.

Perhaps the guests of Juvet Landscape Hotel are more inquisitive and engaged than most people in what Juvet is and what it stands for. Those who come also give of themselves and leave more than money behind them. They understand what this is. Perhaps with a unique hotel come unique guests?

“We strongly appreciate that people feel comfortable here, and that they understand what we have created. That imparts energy,” says Knut.

People have always travelled to see buildings, but they have tended to be classical, monumental buildings – castles, churches, palaces, old towns and so on. These days, modern architecture sparks just as much interest. People come from far away to see modern architecture such as the Oslo Opera House or the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Valldal. And some people travel halfway around the world, without especially considering that it is Norway they are travelling to. They have read about Juvet on the Internet or in one of the many journals or newspapers that have reported on Juvet. And they want to see it.

“We can see that what we have set up here strikes a chord with people and touches them. People can see lots of images of Juvet Landscape Hotel, Burtigarden and the surrounding scenery on the internet. But no matter how many pictures our guests have seen before they arrive, when they get here, they are awestruck.”