For architects, Oslo has become a safe haven from Europe’s economic turmoil. According to an article by J.S. Marcus for The Wall Street Journal, dozens of new architectural projects currently under construction are not only changing the city’s humble skyline, putting the city on the cutting-edge of architectural design, but are also pulling in a base of buyers that are eager to call the city’s waterfront home (no wonder Norway was voted our work). And nowhere can Oslos’s transformation be better seen than in the new quarter of Operakvarteret, where a 20,000 square-meter, mixed use development project has brought various, innovative architects together to design a new face for Oslo. More after the break.
Oslo’s real estate market has been developing at a rapid pace, rising from $147/sf in 1997 to $500/sf this year. It has experienced two decades of financial growth, developed a vibrant, cultural scene, and has an attractive natural landscape that has drawn developers and buyers. The combination has made the city ripe for an architectural explosion. Enter: The Barcode Project. Situated in the newly established Operakvarteret in Bjørvika along Oslo’s vast waterfront, this 20,000 square-meter, mixed use development is attracting innovative architects to provide high-end apartments, community and commercial spaces, and vast amenities to the fjord, marina and medieval parks. The Barcode Project got its name from the building concept: six parallel lots of varying dimensions upon which parallel towers were planned. The towers, distinct in their shape and character, expression and materiality, stand against the otherwise low skyline, rising like barcode stripes along the waterfront. The full scale of the Barcode Project includes up to a dozen buildings, varying in height from nine to seventeen stories.
However, it’s not just height that sets the buildings apart, but rather their designs, which pay attention to the importance of this new neighborhood’s burgeoning street life. The recently completed DNB Headquarters tower by MVRDV and the Deloitte Building by Snohetta, which will include public amenities on its first two floors, including shops and restaurants, are good examples of this. The project by Lund Hagem Architects, for example, which consists of three residential towers (designed to preserve diagonal sight lines through the various lots while optimizing light and air accessibility for the individual units) are terraced in order to create different unit possibilities as well as accessible outdoor spaces for both the residential and commercial units. Just take a look at the views captured by professional photographer Cameron R Neilson who is taking a look at Oslo from an “on the ground” perspective, changing the way that skylines are viewed in general, and buildings within the Barcode Project are experienced in particular as part of the “Straight Up” project. The abstraction of views provide a fairly detailed and personal experience of the new buildings that will make up the Barcode Project, something that renderings or far away photographs fail to address.
As is the case for most large developments, there is contention among Oslo residents about the new addition of towers over the waterfront. Some critics are pleased with the addition, noting that building higher reduces the risk of sprawl, which would encroach upon the natural landscape as the city’s population grows. Other critics argue that the aesthetic of the towers are “cold” to the vernacular and architectural traditions of the city and fear that the towers are hostile to urban life, favoring businesses and luxury over public amenities. But while the debate rolls on, the cranes over the waterfront continue to build. But just seeing the intricacies of these buildings up close and noticing their details is an aspect that is missing from the general critics’ concerns over these new buildings, which center on their general forms in relation to the existing architecture.