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Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage

Rjukan - Notodden Industrial Heritage was inscibed at the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015.

Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site manifests an exceptional combination of industrial themes and assets tied to the landscape, which exhibit an important exchange on technological development in the early 20th century.

The technological ensemble of Rjukan-Notodden comprising dams, tunnels, pipes, power plants, power lines, factory areas and equipment, the company towns, railway lines and ferry service, located in a landscape where the natural topography enabled hydroelectricity to be generated in the necessary large amounts stands out as an example of new global industry in the early 20th century.

The rugged Norwegian landscape with its many waterfalls made Norway an ideal country in which to establish the new types of power-hungry industries. The industrial projects at Rjukan and Notodden represent the change from coal-fired power to hydro-electric energy for industrial purposes, thereby creating the beginning of the second industrial revolution in Northern Europe.

At a time when the possibilities for transmitting electric power over great distances was limited, production, and the necessary labour forces, were built up at the places where power was readily available. It was, in itself, a great achievement to build the world’s largest power station of its time in an isolated cleft-valley just below the highest mountain plateau in Northern Europe. New industrial townships were established in order to manufacture formerly unknown products for the international market, employing newly-developed manufacturing methods. The building of these projects was clearly the result of Norwegian scientific achievement and the resolute efforts of local builders working in close association with foreign investors. The technology and organization developed at Rjukan – Notodden was soon duplicated by industry in other countries.

The two industrial towns were created as a direct result of the western world’s enormous appetite for synthetic fertilizer for use in agriculture. The goal was to supply world society with a product that, at that time, was considered necessary for the future of civilisation.

The transport systems and requirements to connect the factories and industrial towns to the rest of the world is yet another demonstration of the pioneering nature of this industrial project. The system involves two railway lines connected by rail-ferries over Lake Tinnsjø, a unique undertaking. The electrified railway links helped to promote the breakthrough which was necessary in order to achieve an international standard for electrically-powered railways.

The whole complex of power stations, factories, transportation and company- created townships was built up by people with great ambition and vision. The plans were realised and put into action by the hard work of a large labour force employed by just the one company; Norsk Hydro-Elektrisk Kvælstofaktieselskab, (Norsk Hydro). Rjukan – Notodden therefore represents an outstanding example of how innovation, finance and human endeavour created the foundation for a new era in the early 1900s.

The World Heritage site is defined as the area from Møsvannsdammen to the water’s edge at Notodden, a continuous 92 km. long area. The World Heritage site is made up of the inter-linked themes of electric power, industry, transportation and townships and comprises 97 significant objects. The actual World Heritage site is surrounded by a ‘buffer zone’. This includes the mountain slopes from Rjukan to Notodden including the water surface of Mjøsvatn Lake, which is in the Vinje municipality.



World Heritage Sites in Norway


Norges Verdensarv
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