Rjukan is a typical "company town" where everything was built up of Norwegian Hydro. From homes, hospitals, barns to churches. With a short walking tour in the town center you can see many of the buildings and areas that are central to the UNESCO application.
Villaveien and Flekkebyen housing area
1 km west of the town center, you find Villaveien and Flekkebyen housing are.
Most of the houses are built between 1907-1927.
The area Flekkebyen – Villaveien with 71 buildings is like a Rjukan in miniature, and clearly illustrates the social and functional relationships of the early Rjukan community.
The topography is used to mark the position of Hydro’s various categories of employees on the social ladder. Directors, higher-ranking administrative staff and chief engineers were given houses with a garden up in the valley side, where they were favored by the sun that came over the horizon for a much longer period of the year than down on the valley floor where the ordinary workers’ housing was built.
Flekkebyen was the first workers’ housing that was built in Rjukan (1907–1913), based on house type J, which was a variant of the type used in Grønnebyen in Notodden. Unlike in Notodden, varying colors were used from the very beginning during the construction period, giving rise to the name ‘Flekkebyen’ (Patchy Town).
Class distinction was prominent. When the wives of the Hydro directors of Villaveien arrived at the store, the wives of the workers from Flekkebyen had to go out of the line. The statement "Tell me what position you have in Hydro, and I'll tell you where you live" reflects this.
Typical of the houses in Villaveien is their economical and finite shape, the steep roofs and their placement on leveled flat plots in steep terrain. The houses on the upper side of the road tend to have front gardens with supporting walls and stairs leading down to Villaveien. The houses are individually designed, which was the only socially acceptable thing to do for the town’s upper class.
Factory Norwegian Hydro
Cross the bridge at Flekkebyen. Then you enter the factory grounds to Norwegian Hydro. Many building are now run by other types of businesses, however most of the building are still standing in their original form. You will among other things see the last remaining acid tower from the original manufacturing plant at Rjukan.
Birkeland / Eyde furnaces
Sam Eyde wanted the "strongest lightning it was possible to obtain to the earth", as he needed to catch nitrogen from the air, to meet the demand for fertilizers that would save the world from famine. He met Professor Kristian Birkeland who could help him with this.
The industrial race could only be overcome with new technology and a large amounts of electricity. Tinfos in Notodden delivered large amounts of power and the new Birkeland - Eyde 'arc' managed to create an arc of 3,000 degrees and grab nitrogen from the air.
Along with acid towers was the new technology in place, and we got what later became Norway's most important invention: salpetre.
A model of Birkeland / Eyde furnace can be seen outside the cinema and Rjukan house in Rjukan.
Around the town center you can find many key construction areas that are central in the UNESCO application. Such as the town square of Rjukan, Rjukan Baptist Church, Rjukan church, abandoned Rjukan hospital, Såheim Power plant and residential areas with typical "own homes". "Own homes" means finished small, detached worker's home with garden and outbuildings as Norwegian Hydro offered its workers if they took up a loan with the company.
Download the app "on spot story" and use your mobile as your guide. At several points in Rjukan you will get a message on the app that shows where you are and you can hear the history of the area.