What’s the picture?

It’s not so much about Munch anymore.

If you have paid any attention to the development of Oslo the last years, you might have noticed there’s something going on around the waterfront. You’re correctly thinking about Bjørvika (see map below for location), a soon to become all new urban neighbourhood of Oslo. For the most part, the neighbours have been relatively nice. Naturally people concern about their views, shadows and new types of people moving in next door, and successively there have been some screaming of course. (..but imagine this being on the other side of town…the developers would probably still have problems digging the first hole in the ground for Barcode.) All in all I’d say the trouble and noise resulting from these Bjørvika-plans are healthy signs for Oslo. Apparently the city has inhabitants caring deeply for it’s history, present and future… About time the patriotic side came to show.

So, being interested in Oslo and/or urban development, as you probably are – reading this blog, you’d be noticing the birth of a neverending discussion about Munch, aesthetic taste, building heights, urban spaces and whatnot…
Norway’s one and only, Edward Munch, is supposed to have his work moved down to the the Opera house from where the museum is now, at a pretty nice place called Tøyen. (Why spread the joy, when it all could be found in a “mall” downtown?) The final winning project, a building called “Lambda”, has been just another victim of Oslos incapability when it comes to arranging architectural competitions. Why is it so difficult, you wonder? First, to make it clear, you’re most likely right when you think we’re (one of) the luckiest people in the world. So few people sharing all this land and all that money from the deepest sea, and not even a dictator behind the wheel. But good things don’t come without a price. You see, here in Oslo, a winner is not necessarily a winner…

The new home of Munch? Not a winner after all…

I won’t go deeper into the issue of architectural/planning competitions right now. You can actually read more about that in Conditions magazine #7. So I’ll continue with the case of Bjørvika. Not sure if I understand it right myself, so don’t behead me if I’m wrong.

Today’s news: The Director General for Cultural Heritage in Norway (Riksantikvaren) has indeed understood his position and won’t give up easily. If the mandate is used correctly could probably be even more discussed.
Today they (the … cultural heritage office) raised objection to the planned location of Lambda (and to the proposed alternatives). I didn’t mention this earlier, but even though the neighbours aren’t too difficult for the Bjørvika development, the historic ground is. The proposed recidential quarters at Sørenga are located close to Oslo’s medieval ruins. The area called Middelalderparken (the Mediaeval park) consists of numerous layers of Oslo’s (and Norway’s) important cultural heritage dating back to year 1000. Important indeed, and way too ignored for many years…

But what has this to do with Munch, you wonder? Well, the Director General for Cultural Heritage (puh!) is afraid the enormous (and ugly, in his and many other random people’s opinion) Lambda building will harm the visibility of the mediaeval area. They might be afraid people visiting Bjørvika, which is the first thing you see when walking off the train, won’t be able to picture Oslo as anything but the Opera and this new glossy glassy cityscape. The sight line he’s referring to, goes from Akershus castle (Akershus slott), at the old fortress of Oslo to the Mediaeval park. Apparently Lambda, or Munch if you like, is in the way.

Kongsbakken. Too narrow?

It’s not too difficult understanding his concern about hiding Oslo’s history. What I find more questionable is this argumentation concerning the large urban park (Kongsbakken, picture above) in front of the Mediaeval park. Here’s a freely translation from the newspaper Aftenposten 1.3.2011: The submission argues for a 80-100 m urban park, instead of the proposed 40 m, going through the residential quarters at Sørenga. This to make the consequences of the reduced historical structure less unfortunate. The picture on the top is an illustration of how they’d imagine the area, less narrow, more water, and plenty of space. For the developers this means around 250 less apartments.
The interesting part, is that they point out that this is necessary no matter where in Bjørvika the museum is located… Yet an indication of not wanting it there at all.

Today’s submission results in an extensive negotiation process between the City and the Norwegian Ministry of Environment. Patience will be needed…

But hey, forgetting about Mr. Edvard Munch again. Where should we put him?

 

Map of Oslos waterfront. The yellow areas are the development areas. And Bjørvika is by far the largest project.

 

Further reading (Norwegian):
– The submission: http://www.riksantikvaren.no/Norsk/Aktuelt/…
– Bjørvika utvikling: http://www.bjorvikautvikling.no/modules/m…
–  Article in Aftenposten: http://www.aftenposten.no/kul_und/art…
– Munch museum: http://www.munch.museum.no/exhibitions.as…

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