Tuesday, 15 April 2008

the new oslo opera house

dear friends, now that we have discussed issues of both smell and olympic torch relays, i feel it is time for me to get into my field and discuss a little architecture.

the occasion is the opening of the new opera house in oslo, designed by norwegian architects snohetta (picture from saturday's opening galla)

following the opening of this massive new opera house comes, of course, much debate about whether we need an opera house, whether everybody should pay for the opera house (it is financed through taxes and cost approximately 4 billion norwegian kroner, or approx. 800 million dollars.) etc.

it is built in the harbour area of bjorvika in oslo, in front of the central station (when seen from the sea), and takes on the shape of an iceberg rising from the water. this whole area is one that is under development at the moment (anthony is doing his thesis project on the site right next to it, designing a new ferry terminal and hotel). i find it quite astonishing that, from what i can deduce from the debate pages on www.dagbladet.no, nobody seems to understand the importance of this building in terms of regenerating this area.

to enlighten you a bit more, the area around the central station has always been a major hang out spot for the drug addicts and hookers of oslo (the drug addicts have moved elsewhere after a government initiative was implemented a while back, but the hookers were definitely lined up two weeks ago when me and anthony went for an evening walk down there) and whereas most of the motorways in oslo are underground in tunnels, at this tricky place the road comes back up from the tunnel and separates the whole harbour area from the rest of the city.

in order to make the opera house work they have built a pedestrian bridge over this motorway, connecting the opera to the central station.

having studied issues like this in my "built environment" lectures, i found it incredibly interesting when anthony took me down there a couple of weeks ago. the whole area is rather cut off from the rest of the city, which was clear to me because it took an englishman doing his thesis to drag me down there (i had never been before, and i am from there. uhoh.)
i have since developed a burning interest in the development of the harbour area, because it is one where nothing has been done for years and years and there is so much land which has been left derelict because of this incredibly disruptive motorway (and also the train lines from oslo central).
i am very excited to learn from anthony that work has already started on building a tunnel for this road to go in. there is also a project called the "barcode" which will be a business park of high rise buildings organized in a "barcode" way behind the opera house. the first one has already been built and i happen to think it is an excellent building.

so i guess my concern is that people only seem to think of this as a building which has cost way too much money for everyone that is not going to use it (the common man doesn't go to the opera etc, but in fact let's say we have 4 million people in norway, so if you do the maths the opera will, if it stands for 100 years, cost each of us about 4 kroner pr year. which after all is pretty much the price of half a pack of bubblegum), but i think most people fail to see the real point of this. not only is it the first time in YEARS that a major new cultural building has been erected in oslo (i believe the last one was the national theatre in 1899), but it is also oslo's very first landmark building which will undoubtedly speed up the process of the urban renewal of oslo's harbour which it so badly needs.

also, i have real doubts that it will only be used for opera - rock concerts are already scheduled.
also, (again) i've already immensely enjoyed this building simply by walking around it and taking it in. also, the installation in the lobby by olafur eliasson is VERY nice.


Shane said...

wow! i didn't know you were in oslo so recently...
i think i would oppose the use of public money even for something so beautiful and so important culturally in a country that didn't already have the basic needs of it citizens covered, but as we've discussed before on this blog, these norwegian taxes seem to go pretty far. what do the people who complain about the cost propose the money be spend on instead?
(makes me think of maslow's hierarchy of needs - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs)

Shane said...

oh also i saw olafur eliasson's show at the sf moma during my winter break and i really liked it too. it is coming to ps 1 (in queens) soon!

Sofie said...

i went to olafur eliassons studio when i was in berlin!

Sofie said...

i apologise for my bad maths which upon second calculation does not really add up. but point is it wouldn't be that much.