Designing and constructing a system for protecting against rockfall that is both effective and at the same time beautiful to look at, presents challenges in many disciplines. On the E10 between Solbjørnneset and Hamnøy in Lofoten, Norway, architect Knut Hjeltnes has designed a sturdy concrete structure protecting the road, yet fits in with its surroundings with its soft lines and elements. In 2016, the rockfall protection at the E10 was honoured with the European Concrete Award. The design was also nominated for several Norwegian architectural prizes.

Prior to construction began on the E10, NGI was hired to assess the dangers and prepare the towering mountainside above the road. The mountainside called for a thorough job in order to remove loose rock above the 2 kilometres stretch of road.

Aerial cleaning job

"There are a number of considerations, calculations and assessments to be made in this type of mission. For example, we had to decide which overhanging mountain boulders and rocks should be blown away, which should be bolted, and where to secure with nets and walls", Says Arnstein Aarset, engineer geologist at NGI.

Descending the steep mountainside in the middle of the night, well secured and armed with a crowbar, Arnstein rappelled above the road and surveyed the task. All work had to be done between midnight and 6 AM, during which hours the E10 road could be closed for traffic. Since Lofoten is north of the Arctic Circle, and the job was done during the months of May and June, darkness never presented a problem. In bright weather, blessed with the midnight sun, Arnstein Aarset could enjoy glimpses of magic scenery in between his work sessions.

During the winter of 2013-14, construction work began on the E10 itself. NGI provided avalanche warnings each morning, as local snow conditions, temperatures and precipitation were carefully considered and monitored. However, there was little snowfall that winter, so construction work could be carried out without significant interruptions.

NGI
The solid concrete structure protects E10 from falling rock while conveying a soft and inviting impression. It has earned architect Knut Hjeltnes several awards. (Photo. Tommy Johansen)
 

On safe and scenic ground

Architect Knut Hjeltnes was given the task of designing the protective structure that could withstand several tons of falling rock.

"It was our goal to tone down the massiveness, visually and emotionally, and at the same time emote a feeling of safety. We wanted the structure to be open, preserving the magnificent view and the intimate proximity to the fjord. There are also pedestrians and cyclists who travel here, so it is important that the building materials felt non-threatening. We designed the edifice to convey a softer and a more playful impression than normal for these kinds of constructions", explains Knut Hjeltnes to the Norwegian magazine Architectural News.

Among other elements, the architect has used slender steel pillars and glass railings facing the sea to ensure that locals and tourists get the most of the stunning view.

FACTS:

  • Rock fall and avalanche protection for the E10 road in Lofoten, near Hamnøy and Reine, in Norway.
  • Part of National Tourist Routes in Norway.
  • The main contractor was Gjerden Fjellsikring, with NGI providing geological follow-up and quality control. In addition, NGI coordinated various specialists during the first phases of the project. NGI provided engineering geology and quality assurance during the first phase, prior to construction.
  • NGI also provided avalanche warnings during the first winter season after construction started.
  • Architect:  Knut Hjeltnes Sivilarkitekter MNAL AS.
  • Landscape architect:  Bjørbekk & Lindheim Landskapsarkitekter.
  • Contractor: Statens vegvesen, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration