13 December 2014

Northern Norway Architecture Award 2014 to Biotope

"Nordnorsk arkitekturpris tildeles ´Fugleskjul i Varanger´, mottaker: Biotope"

Juryens begrunnelse:
"Nordnorsk arkitekturpris 2014 gis til et prosjekt som forholder seg til årstidsrytmene og kombinerer kunnskap og erfaring fra forskjellige fagfelt. På strategiske punkter, i forhold til globale migrasjonsmønster, skaper prosjektet en diskret infrastruktur for tilstedeværelse og observasjon. Prosjektet legger til rette for miljøbevisst turisme, stedsutvikling og forskning. Her kan besøkende komme nært innpå livsrytmen til de fugleartene som gjester kysten vår hvert eneste år."

Jury: Sara Lund, Berit Steenstrup & Kjerstin Uhre

Translation from diploma:

"Northern Norway Architecture Awards goes to ´bird hides in Varanger´, given to Biotope"

"Northern Norway Architecture Award 2014 is given to a projects that relates to the seasonal changes og combines knowledge og experience from several disciplines. At strategic sites, in relation to global migration patterns, the project creates a discreet infrastructure for presence and observation. The project facilitates environmentally conscious tourism, destination development og science. People are given the chance to come close to the life of the bird species visiting our coast every year"

More on the award website

A very big thank you to the jury, from the Biotope team: Elin Taranger, Tormod Amundsen & Alonza Garbett (photo above from the Steilnes bird hide by Ivan Brodey)

We are very gratefull for this award as a great recognition of our work. Perhaps this is the right opportunity to write a few words about our office. I guess it is something of an unlikely story of making new things happen. 

In 2009 Elin and I moved to Vardø in Varanger with the ambition of starting the worlds first architectural office dedicated to birding and nature experiences. We both had the ambition of doing something different. It seemed that the architecture scene was occupied by ´starchitects´ and all the architectural media was flooded with pompous and grand buildings trying to be more spectacular then the previous. What we really missed hearing more about was architects who engaged with nature and ecology. In short: we set out to establish the office that we missed. We were certain that we could make a difference as architects, by working pro nature and without overly expensive projects. We wanted to design strategically situated, small pieces of architecture that would bring people and nature closer. 

Against everyones advice, we decided to move to the furthest away, small fishing town in Norway: Vardø. The perfect place to set up our office. We knew that Vardø and Varanger was a place of unique qualities that was yet to be explored properly. For the past 5 years we have worked diligently to establish Varanger as the worlds finest arctic birding destination. No less. This work have included doing everything for designing bird hides, photo hides, exhibitions, info-folders, maps, graphic design, branding, international promo, science projects, etc. We have been privileged to work with local nature based tourism business, birders from all over the world, and many key people throughout Varanger. 

Kongsfjord cliff wind shelter

King Eider, Båtsfjord

Steilnes bird hide, Vardø 

Puffin fight club, Hornøya 

Ekkerøy wind shelter 

 Guillemots, Hornøya

Hornøya bird hide

Thank you..

people power! (click image for bigger, slide show view)

There are so many great people we have worked with that we can not possibly name them all here, but we would very much like to express our gratidue to some key partners in the development in Varanger: 

One of the first to acknowledge our ideas of making a birding destination was Innovation Norway, by supporting many of our projects, like Gullfest (the arctic birding festival) and our continued strategic work in Varanger.  We also owe a big thanks to Finnmark Fylkeskommune for supporting the production the very first Varanger Birding Destination plan, an analysis of Varanger potential to develop birding infrastructure. This work was also supported by the Nowegian Environment Directorate (Miljødirektoratet), and contiued with their support of co-financing a series of bird hides. We are also very happy to have worked with the good people at Varanger Næringssenter (among several things, they are key people in co-financing the hides), and like us, they have the ambition of building a better region, with more collaboration between the municipalities. We have also been very fortunate to increasingly work more with the Varanger municipalities, like Vardø, Vadsø, Berlevåg, Båtsfjord in both realising new hides and events. 

We have also been privileged to have the support from Nordnorsk Reiseliv and Sparebank-stiftelsene (SNN fund) of Northern Norway who have supported the making of key events in Varanger. We also appreciate working with key people from Statens Naturoppsyn and Fylkesmannen i Finnmark (county environment authority). There are so many projects we have been involved with, and it is hard to cover them all, but we also want to thank the National Park board, Vardø Museum and Vadsø Havn KF, Vardø Næringsforening. 

There are also many nature based tourism businesses in Varanger with whom we have worked lot: We really dig you all for making the Varanger peninsula a more hospitable and amazing place! A very big thanks to top places like Vadsø Fjordhotell, Vardø Hotel, Vestre Jakobselv Camping, Arctic Tourist, Rica Hotel, Vardø Havn KF,  Ekkerøy Feriehus, Kongsfjord Gjestehus, Berlevåg Pensjonat, Kvitbrakka in Berlevåg and Skagen Bo- og Havfiske. Thankyou to the top carpenters Ken Lorentzen, Leif Jonny Josefsen and Gunnar Isaksen. We also owe a very special thanks to the Norwegian National Tourist Routes for taking ownership to several of the hides, and for contiued support and partnership in the making of the infrastructure that supports the birding destination Varanger.   

Last, but not least: we want to say thank you to the international birding community! We feel privileged to be part of a worldwide community of such highly engaged people! Many of you have contributed to making Varanger better, by sharing stories from Varanger, and by inspiring us and many others! 

Varanger is an amazing place and we look forward to continue working with the development of the worlds finest arctic birding destination! As an architectural practise dedicated to birding people and nature closer we also look forward to working with new friends and new places in Norway and internationally. It seems there is room for such a niché office as ours, and we are very gratefull to be able to make a positive difference. 

Thank you Sara, Berit and Kjerstin from the Northern Norway Architecture Award for recognising the ´Varanger bird hide projects´ with this award. 

To be continued!

Tormod Amundsen, Elin Taranger and Alonza Garbett 

Architects & birders at Biotope   //  facebook.com/biotope.no  // twitter @BiotopeOffice