Something’s Cooking in Rødberg
We had heard rumors in Oslo that something’s cooking in Rødberg, but what? Second home dwellers and tourists returning from Hardangervidda gossiped about great lunches, local groceries, flexible office space and workshops happening in the small town. Was it really only the Kiwi store that made Rødberg a popular stop? To find out more we take an electric car from the capital on a Friday afternoon in September, the year 2024.
Travelling north on the FV40, there is a tinge of autumn in the yellow and orange colors of birches and ash trees on the mountain sides. The drive goes through a landscape of valleys, forests, rivers and fields. As we leave Kongsberg we are passed by a self-driving truck with the print “Smaken av Fjellen” on its side. 15 km to the south of our destination, in Nore, we drive pass one of the few remaining Stave Churches in Norway. Located on the slopes leading down to the water, visible from far away in the surrounding landscape the building is a historical monument to the power of architecture to build communities. Exiting Nore the car makes a slow westbent curve, and once again the landscape opens up, as the long water mirror of “Rødbergdammen” appears in full view. On its northern banks, west of the hydropower plant Nore 1 is a two-floor building clad in dark wood shingles. Smoke from one of the pointy roof lanterns rise into a blue sky. West of this building is the former train garage, now “The Gate of Numedalen” or “Numedals Porten”, an info-point about upcoming events, actors, and projects in the region. We drive towards the bridge. Something’s cooking in Rødberg for sure, and we decide to check out what is happening in town.
2. From Road to Main Street
Before the car lands on the other side of the bridge the autopilot comes to a stop to let a group of kids cross the street. They are running along the waterfront, a promenade with trees, benches, a plant nursery center called the “Drivhus” and a small sauna with a pier accessing the lake. On this side of the water the FV40 is the new main street of Rødberg, a traffic zone with slower speed and generous space for pedestrians. There are bike lanes on each side, sidewalks, and short time parking in the shade of ash trees. We make a left after the bridge and park parallel to the street. After connecting our car to one of the electric charging stations, we stroll down the hill in the direction of the water with a sense that there is more than food cooking in Rødberg. To our left, the former vertical barriers between the road and the town shops have been bridged by a terraced landscape of steps, plant beds and places to sit. Two kids play on the extruded steps, as their parents watch them from above while having a coffee outside Risan’s café. A man and his dog has stopped to conversate with a woman sitting two steps above the sidewalk. Bicyclists pass by now and then, both locals on their way to the water, and commuters from nearby villages. Wintertime this is a ski lane, a young boy on a skateboard informs us.
Across the street are the two new apartment buildings with views over the water. A woman exits the building on her way to the Work-Shop, the former Sentrum house turned into a “tradition and innovation research center” offering traditional and digital tools for rent. Showing us a 3d-printed prototype of a low energy cooling box, she explains that she is member of a startup company developing solutions for sustainable grocery distribution in the hinterland. She lives in Oslo but extends her weekends in the mountain by working at a distance, taking advantage of the high-tech resources of the Work-Shop and the flexible office space in the ground floor of the building from where she just came.
A self-driving buss from Geilo pulls over on the buss station further down the street and an old couple exit dragging a shopping trolley. We cross the street just below the Work Shop. On the other side we step into a garden of the old train tracks, the soil between the slipers are now plant beds for regional flora. Flowers like Fjellsmelle and Rødsildre, herbs like Angelica and the green bracket Skogburkne grow in long parallel vectors from here to the end of the new park.