Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site, Norway

An exceptional combination of industrial assets and themes associated to the natural landscape

By UNESCO World Heritage

Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

The second industrial revolution is based on hydro-electric power. In 2015, the Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in Norway. Based on a remarkable invention, the electric arc furnace, the development of Rjukan-Notodden resulted from the birth of a new global industry in the early 20th century; an industry that produced agricultural fertilizer, calcium nitrate or Norwegian salpeter.
The World Heritage site comprises of three municipalities: Vinje, Tinn and Notodden and extends over an area of 92 kilometres.

Vemork power plant (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

The heritage is an expression of "profound social change" and "outstanding achievements that represent an important growth for mankind in the science and engineering arts areas." (UNESCO criteria: (ii) and (iv)).

Oven house. Workers (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

The first step in the chemical process - the electric arc furnace - made it possible, by means of electricity and magnetic waves, to achieve the high temperature required for the decomposition of atmospheric nitrogen. This method of production, known as the Birkeland-Eyde process, was in use for the first 25 years.
The first industrial scale production took place in Notodden in 1905, and contributed to a substantial increase in food production. Later, at the beginning of the 1930s, new factories were established at Notodden and Rjukan based on the Haber-Bosch process.

Rjukan waterfall (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

The Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage is based on four pillars: Hydropower projects, the rise of the industry, transportation routes and the development of the urban communities of Notodden and Rjukan.
Waterfalls, such as Rjukanfossen, were a prerequisite for building the power plants that supplied the new industry. At Rjukan, in fact, the world's largest hydropower plant was built twice!

Såheim power plant (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Firstly along with the construction of the Vemork power plant (1911) and then, four years later, with the construction of the Såheim power plant. The foundations had been laid when Hydro built the Svelgfoss power plant at Notodden. It was completed in 1907 and was the largest in Europe at the time.

Såheim, Fertilizers packaging factory (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Between 1905 and 1915, industrial plants of great dimensions were built in Notodden and Rjukan to accommodate the new chemical industry, of which the most important products were calcium nitrate and ammonium nitrate.

New railway sections (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

In less than two years, a new transport route was established to support the developments at Rjukan.
This route, consisting of two railway sections and a 30-kilometre passage by large rail ferries on Lake Tinnsjøen, covered the 75 kilometre distance between Rjukan and Notodden.

New Urban Communities (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Both Rjukan and Notodden were very small settlements at the beginning of the 20th century. The new industry soon provided approx 2,000 new jobs, and two urban communities grew up in a short period of time.
At Rjukan, the number of inhabitants increased from a few hundred to 10,000 in just 10 years.

Notodden (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Notodden underwent a similar development. The French and German investors also had to contribute financially to provide housing for the workers. In both locations, industrial workers and their families acquired a standard of living that was unusual for the time.

Remarkable People (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Sam Eyde, together with Professor Kristian Birkeland and Marcus Wallenberg, are considered to be the founders of the new industry. In 1920 a statue of Sam Eyde (1866-1940) was unveiled at Rjukan. He succeeded in attracting foreign investors and became Hydro's first CEO.
Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917) is one of Norway's foremost scientists and inventors of all time. Swedish magnate Marcus Wallenberg (1864-1943) helped lay the industrial foundations and was Hydro's board chairman for the first 37 years of the company’s existence.


The Navvy (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

To drive the major contruction projects forward, the construction workers or navvies, worked in mutual dependency with the foremen and the engineers.
Once roads, railways and buildings were completed, great numbers of skilled industrial workers arrived in the area to fill the jobs offered by the new industry. A wide range of expertise was in demand and Rjukan and Notodden attracted people from far and wide.

Industry In Operation – Society And People (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

People working in the new industry enjoyed a far better standard of life than previous generations. Despite class differences and some variation in living conditions, people shared a pride in what they had been involved in creating.

Hospital at Rjukan (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

At Rjukan, Hydro was involved in everything from water supply, sewage, roads, churches and a local hospital. The company built schools, a fire station, stores, parks, sports facilities and a library.
Between 1907 and 1914 Hydro built 340 housing units in both towns, which were characterized by their distinctive architecture.

New cultural organizations (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Alongside the urbanisation process, civil society gradually developed, and voluntary organizations were founded, reflecting the population’s cultural interests as sporting clubs, choirs, musical groups and other forms of cultural associations were formed.

Old Skarfoss dam (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

The new industry emerged at a time when there was a growing fear of hunger around the world. It was expected that access to natural fertilizers such as guano and nitrates from South America would decline rapidly. Calcium nitrate and other fertilizer products gave the farmer a significant additional yield. Indeed, industrial fertilizers are still essential to feeding the world's population. The fertilizer industry started by Hydro continues to thrive today in the form of the agri-business company Yara, which operates world-wide.
The new industry showed the potential that lay in the utilization of hydropower, a perpetually renewable resource. Hydropower still provides by far the most energy in Norway, and is looked upon as a significant natural resource for the nation.

Ticket control in the wagon (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Through becoming organized unions, workers at Rjukan and Notodden were able to make demands for higher wages and improved conditions. They even managed to win acceptance for an eight-hour working day and contributed in a number of ways to the improvement of social conditions.

Christmas event at Tinn Museum (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

These two new towns were built in the early years after Norway had gained its independence. They were therefore often seen as an expression of the development of the young, independent nation. The industrial adventure that led to their growth enabled many people to experience a previously unimagined standard of living.

Sun Festival or “Solfesten” (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

The new industry was important for the development of agriculture in Norway, but it also proved to be of great socio-economic significance. As the flagship of Norwegian industry, it provided considerable export revenues for the country. In Rjukan, the whole town displays its unified spirit by gathering together to celebrate a special annual event known as the Sun Festival or “Solfesten”.

Tinfos II (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Over time, the fertilizer industry in Rjukan and Notodden became less competitive and was relocated to the coast, in Porsgrunn and Glomfjord. Today the factory sites at Rjukan and Notodden are industrial parks containing other enterprises, but most of the building stock has been preserved.
Since 2010, a systematic effort has been undertaken to map memories relating to the industrial adventure at Rjukan and Notodden. National legislation ensured that buildings, railways and power plants such as Tinfos II (photo), were protected and preserved.

World Heritage Process (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2015, under criteria (ii) and (iv). The management of the site is centralized around the local World Heritage Council led by Vestfold and Telemark county and the three municipalities: Tinn Notodden and Vinje. This enables both legal and financial mechanisms to support stakeholders in conservation, revitalisation and development projects based on the Outstanding Universal Values of the site. The Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum plays an important part in hosting the two local World Heritage Visitor Centers, disseminating information about the site to global visitors.
The steam ferry DF Ammonia, built in 1929, is one of four steam-powered train ferries in the world.

Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

The museum aims to promote knowledge of the working life and conditions of the hydropower and electrochemical industry in Norway. NIA's museums and exhibitions receive around 100,000 visitors a year. Educational programs for school students form an important part of what NIA offers.

Preserving the historic railways (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Much effort is put into maintaining the railway track from Rjukan to Mæl and refurbishing locomotives and carriages. Tourists are offered trips on this historic railway. Volunteers do a considerable amount of work repairing and maintaining railway equipment and defending its interests, helping on the maintenance of public spaces and disseminating local history. The community is heavily involved and champions the World Heritage site.

The Industrial Museum (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

At the old Tinfos pulp mill at Notodden you will find an Art Gallery, an Art Museum and an Industrial Museum. The gallery displays national and international art whilst the Industrial Museum tells the story of the crucial years of the beginning of the industrial adventure.

Mæl station (2015) by Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage

Mæl Stasjon welcomes thousands of visitors every summer for guided tours of the DF Ammonia and cruises on MF Storegut (photo) on Lake Tinnsjøen.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the Rjukan-Notodden Visitor Center at NIA.: industriarven.no

Contacts to management: www.vtfk.no/meny/tjenester/kultur/unesco-verdensarv/


More on the Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/1486

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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