Rest Area Niemenharju is located on European highway E75 which runs from Greece in the south to North Cape all the way in the North of Europe. After a long drive, it’s a perfect place to stop for the night and take in the natural environment. The Rest Area is located on a beautiful spot next to a large pond and a ridge (in Finnish harju, hence the name) bordering lake Kolima, which is a remnant from the ice age. The Rest Area takes its inspiration from the surrounding nature. It offers a break from driving, with beautiful, unobstructed views to the water.
The Main Building, a buffer between traffic and nature, is comprised of 24 tree-like columns placed on an 8m x 8m grid. The columns give visitors the feeling of being in a forest. They carry a huge canopy that curves upwards towards the road as if to catch the attention of the passing motorists. The canopy provides shelter for both the fueling area and the pedestrian area around the building. All supporting functions are placed in black boxes under and on top of the canopy so they seem to disappear against the dark backdrop of the forest. The columns are made of glued laminated timber sourced from local wood. CLT (cross laminated timber) walls in the interior enhance the natural atmosphere and bring a sense calm to the place, not typically found in a rest stop. On the second floor are 10 hotel rooms with views towards the lake and a sauna area to relax and recharge one’s batteries.
Rest Area Niemenharju is not your typical service station. It offers a retreat from traffic and a peaceful environment to enjoy the surroundings, local food and a good night sleep. All of this is achieved through structural wooden architecture that is innovative, out of the ordinary and sustainable.