Just off highway 4 in Pihtipudas, Finland, you can find the world's most beautiful gas station, at least according to British website Designcurial. Anyone who has visited Niemenharju Tourist Center is sure to agree with the architecture and design website – it is possible to feel a connection with nature right by the highway.
The harsh weather of early winter is soon forgotten when you set foot inside the homely shop and restaurant, which exudes the warmth of wood. The gas station and tourist center was built in the fall of 2016, and the entrepreneur behind the project, Olavi Kolehmainen, had a clear vision for the new tourist center: "I have enjoyed a long career in the wood industry, so right from the design phase I knew I wanted a wooden-framed building"
The entrepreneur ran the project jointly with the municipality of Pihtipudas, and the aim was to create a rest stop for tourists with a new, innovative approach."It's lucky that a group of young, open-minded architects was allowed to design this site," says Kolehmainen. "For example, the glued laminated timber beams that spread upward were inspired by the local pine forest." Further inspiration came from the nearby Kolima lake and ridge landscape. The sweeping roof of the refueling area was also designed to feel close to the surrounding nature, and it makes for a stunning landmark for passing travelers.
Olavi Kolehmainen and Teknos' Sales Representative, Ilkka Isoaho, enjoy a coffee
Since it was completed, the tourist center has attracted substantial media attention. "We've had interest from Finland's largest newspapers, businesses in the wood sector, TV programs, and visitors from abroad. They often ask if they are allowed to take photos," Kolehmainen continues. The beautiful black exterior cladding was treated in accordance with the TEKNOSAFE 2407 fire protection coating system. The glued laminated timber beams are coated in a light-tinted AQUATOP 2600-24 lacquer, which works superbly both indoors and outdoors.
The tourist center offers services including gas station services, a restaurant, a hotel, a rest hut for truck drivers, meeting rooms, and a campground. In the future, more meeting and sauna facilities will be built on the shore of the adjacent pond. Although the tourist center mainly serves passing visitors, locals are also keen to visit.
"When we held the grand opening the fall before last, there were more people than we expected and we ran out of sausages to give them!" Kolehmainen laughs. "I also remember 2 very determined pensioners who came all the way from the municipal center with their Zimmer frames to get a coffee." This great popularity shows that Niemenharju Tourist Center appeals to design experts and average citizens alike.
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The cozy hotel rooms can be accessed directly from the restaurant.
Customer: Municipality of Pihtipudas
Architectural design: Studio Puisto Architects Oy
Glued laminated timber beams: Versowood Oy
Exterior cladding elements: Junnikkala Oy
The world's most beautiful gas station 2017 (Designcurial)
Wood prize 2017 (Puuinfo)
The glued laminated timber columns that spread upward give the refueling area an atmospheric air.
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