building as landscape

As refreshing as an iceberg in July... The Oslo Opera House was indeed refreshing. I was last in Norway before it was planned and I very much wanted to come back to see it. I wasn't in any way disappointed.


You might wish for good sunlight for the best photos, but the sun in July is pretty fierce at high latitudes. Maybe it gives a better photo of the building, but the genius of the building is when it is covered with people, and in how they are able to use it.


Sited at the end of the Oslofjord, the building becomes a feature of the landscape. It has a beach, where you can actually get to the water...



And it has slopes and high plateaus. The slopes are gradual enough for accessibility, and the designers actually hoped that skateboarders would make use of it and designed accordingly. The more activity, the better.




Looking down into the lobby. The people in the lobby are watching all the people going by above, too.


Enjoying some time at the summit, which is a favorite pastime in cities that are built against mountains, or fjellets, which this resembles.


It's a fractured landscape. We could never do this here in the States, with all the little trip hazards. There are simple warning signs that you might slip or trip on the building surface, and that's enough. It doesn't meet ADA either, but people seem to manage. There are accessible routes to the top.


The Opera House is part of the Oslo waterfront redevelopment plan called Fjord City. It is the catalyst for the waterfront district called Bjorvika. There are a lot of high rises (comparatively) going up next to it; the project was called Barcode but is now called Operakvartet. The new Munch Museum will be going on the water behind the Opera House, and there are tons of other waterfront developments underway or planned. Like Seattle, Oslo had highways along the waterfront, separating it from the city, but the highways are being put into tunnels.

Another interesting thing about this building is the architecture firm that designed it, Snohetta. It started with four Norwegian architects. In Norway young architects get something called an Establishment Stipend when they are starting practice. I think at the time they could get enough to live off of for three months; so the four of them supported each other for a year that way. When they decided to compete for the Opera House commission, they got together with Craig Dykers, who was practicing in LA at the time. He is a fellow alumnus of the same architecture school I went to, although we weren't there at the same time. They got the Opera House, and the Library at Alexandria, and continue to get a lot of other work, including one of the Barcode buildings which they call Isfjellet. I think that means "little ice mountain".

Leave a comment

Recent Entries

Invisible Cities: The city of memory
In the city, sometimes it's hard to remember what was there before what's there now existed. It may have been…
On design in the context of history
Contrast and balance of past and presentCompressive stone, tensile steelSteady past containing (in part)The springing moment of nowHistory and its…
The Weight of History
I was dismayed to read that this building in London was to be demolished as part of the rebuild of…