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…


The greenest car

Certainly a great idea for other (discarded) oldies… This one is driving around South Brooklyn. Read more about the brains behind it here, and about other “rolling agriculture”-projects at The City Fix blog.

Oslo is finally emerging… – Best city – Wallpaper*

Oslo is finally emerging from the long design shadow left by its illustrious neighbours, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki.

Wallpaper lists Oslo among the 5 best cities in its Design Awards 2011! Better late than never :)
The magazine is pointing out the gentrification of Grünerløkka which has made it the hippest neighbourhood in the city. So far, so true.

Meanwhile, gentrification of the district of Grünerløkka has turned it into the city’s hot ‘hood, full of delis, boutiques, bars, clubs and restaurants.

Even so, I’m guessing we’ll always be behind the rest when it comes to continental design and lifestyles…  That’s what makes it Oslo. – A city trying to be a part of Europe, but still the capital of the not so European Norway.

Oslo’s setting between a fjord and a national park, and its manageable size, only add to its appeal, while its ecological vision makes it one of the most environmentally friendly capitals in the world.

Break is over…

I’m sorry about the incredibly long break. I’ll try to get the blog going again, step by step, and I’ll probably continue to write in both Norwegian and English, depending on the story…

I can start by telling you that I’m jumping on the bicycle sharing-trend that’s been spreading around the world the last couple of years, and which is growing fast as we speak. What city doesn’t want to be more livable and look sustainable these days? A “short-cut” to the top might seem to be by starting a bicycle sharing program. Many cities in Europe has one, including Oslo, and now cities even in the United States are getting their eyes on the new mode of transport.

Hopefully this isn’t just a passing trend, but one that will continue growing, and change the way we think of urban mobility.

Here’s an introduction about Velíb, the gigantic French system which made great success in no time. In Paris suddenly everyone bikes… dashingly helmetless.

Picture found here

Sløyf ikke menneskene

Er det så enkelt? At hvis vi sløjfer bilveje, så kommer der mindre biltrafik?

»Det er jeg helt sikker på. Jens Rørbech, Københavns tidligere stadsingeniør, siger, at alle byer i verden har et tilfældigt niveau af trafik, som er afhængigt af, hvor megen plads der er givet til den. Han havde det princip, at når der var tegn på trafikpropper et sted i København, fjernede han en kørebane og gjorde arealet til biler mindre. Så blev det rigtig galt i nogle få dage – og så forsvandt problemet«.

Dette er et utdrag fra intervjuet med Jan Gehl i Politiken 22.5.2010. Utsagnet er så direkte relevant for mitt syn på samferdselsplanleggingen at jeg ikke kunne la det stå uberørt. Det er dog ikke dette temaet jeg vil ta opp nå. Jan Gehls nye bok, “Byer for mennesker”, påpeker nemlig også andre viktige momenter i vår tids byplanlegging, og hvordan planleggingen gang på gang overser det viktigste, mennesket. Spesielt viderefører den de “gehlske” prinsipper om byutvikling for den menneskelige skala, som påpekt i klassikeren, “Livet mellom husene”.

"Byer for mennesker" - Jan Gehl

I intervjuet trekker Jan Gehl fram den danske bydelen Ørestad som et mislykket byutviklingsprosjekt. Etter selv å ha vandret og syklet gatelangs i København et år, kunne jeg ikke vært mer enig. Problemet med Ørestad, eller Ødestad som det kalles på folkemunne, er nettopp det at de store flater gjør området livløst. Det er rett og slett ikke nok mennesker til å fylle de store grønne slettene eller bevandre de brede gatene, og det menneskelige aspektet og intimiteten er glemt. Det er lett å sammenligne dagens byutviklingsprosjekter i Oslo med erfaringene fra Ørestad. Hvorfor tar ikke byutviklerne denne lærdommen til seg? Og hvorfor utfordres ikke prinsipper for bygnings- og uteromsutforming ytterligere? Sitter vi fast i en kultur der gatehierarkiet og de “rene” fasader er de ypperste målekriterier for en vellykket byutvikling?

Jeg tar Bjørvika som eksempel. Designhåndboken som vedtatt av bystyret i 2003 deler områdeutviklingen opp i ulike temaer. I Tema 3: Bygningsforming, nevnes ikke det menneskelige med ett ord. Hyppigere gjentatte formuleringer er “bygningsvegg”(!), “høy arkitektonisk kvalitet” og noen av illustrasjonsfotoene ligner rett og slett på de dårlige storskalaeksemplene. Nå er det (forhåpentligvis) sikkert mange aspekter ved Bjørvika som kan være gode, og fokus på uteområdene er tilstede i andre deler av designmanualen (Tema 2: Gaterom og infrastruktur). Allikevel kan det synes merkelig at temadelene er såpass adskilte. Jeg håper sammenhengen, helheten og det menneskelig er bedre ivaretatt i detaljplanene og senere revidering av planene. Bjørvikas sentrale plassering gjør nok sitt til at området nødvendigvis ikke blir øde som Ørestad, men skal man overlate det til (den antakeligvis svært homogene) befolkningen å skape et liv og gi identitet til en ny sjelløs bydel?

Menneskelig skala i Bjørvika?

På tross av min enighet angående de menneskelige prinsipper, kan jeg ikke la være å påpeke en viss utilfredshet med de stadige idékatalogene Gehl Arkitekter utvikler for byutviklingsprosjekter verden over. De står nemlig også for temaheftene for blant annet bygningsdesign og byrom i Bjørvikaprosjektet. Disse virker dessverre for meg, dog i kjent Gehl-stil, så prinsipielle at det skal over gjennomsnittlig god fantasi til for å se en sammenhengende utforming av området. Prinsippene er gode i seg selv, men det fungerer heller som en katalog med bilder og skisser av eksisterende ideelle bygnings- og gatestrukturer fremfor konkret områdetilpasning og utforming av en særegen bydel i Oslo. Hvem bestemmer så videre hvilke prinsipper og strukturer som skal råde?

Eksempel fra temahefte (Gehl Arkitekter)

Jeg håper inderlig min, og mange andres, kritikk blir gruset, og at den såkalte fjordbyen både blir levende, mangfoldig og intim. Uansett får vi se fram til å oppdage Oslos nye bydel “i øjenhøjde”, når den tid kommer…

Minneapolis ftw

This video on Streetfilms explains all the buzz about Minneapolis lately… There are apparently great things going on in the Scandinavian friendly city up north… (despite their climate!)

What caught my particular attention, was the trend of bike coffeeshops! Apparently there are quite a few of this kind in the city. Lately I’ve been thinking that this would be a great thing to start in Oslo, but for now it’s just a vision. Maybe someone will get inspired by MN, and bring the vision to life sometime in the nearer future… It would most definitely make a change in how we look upon bikes in Oslo, and serve as a, in my opinion, needed meeting point and social arena.

Bike coffee shop in Minneapolis

A bike workshop and great coffee. What a fabulous combination!

bike + coffee = true

The motorized states of America are cycling more than ever. Hopefully the trend rubs off on the rest of us.

Long live the pedestrians. / Länge leve fotgängarna.

New tactic from our fellas across the border. Volvo pander the motorists worst enemy, the pedestrians, in their ads for a new (orange!) car. “Long live the pedestrians”? Are they making fun of us? (Enlighten me please.)

Volvo anno 2010

Anyhow, by reading more about the thoughts behind the ad, apparently they’re thinking outside the shell (literally). Some how this car detects pedestrians hidden from the drivers view while driving slowly around the city. “…driving slowly…”? I think we already found a fault. Even worse, they hope to improve the urban environment by adding this new wonderful car…

And did James Dean ever imagine he would front a Swedish car-campaign?

Nostalgic moments

Reclaim the streets!

An addition to the last post about owning the streets… I’d say 2009 was a kick-start for a world wide “street renaissance”. Much thanks to the newthinking New York City mayor. World cities are important trendsetters, and if motorized NYC can do it, so can we. The question is – at what phase? How soon will we reclaim the streets?

This video from Streetfilms.org shows how quickly NYC were overtaken by cars, and adresses the problems the city now faces…

And as noted before, what Oslo needs is most likely an election…

Who’s street?

A street is a paved public thoroughfare in a built environment. It is a public parcel of land adjoining buildings in an urban context, on which people may freely assemble, interact, and move about. –Wikipedia

How wonderful… But wait! I hardly remember last time I moved about freely in the streets of Oslo. It seems like ages ago when I acted like the king of the road, fearing no one. And yet it was just the very early 90’s. The pedestrians were the majority, and embraced their position for a brief while.

A road’s main function is transportation, while streets facilitate public interaction.

Even with the distinction between roads and streets I cannot say todays streets meet the function they’re entitled in theory. So how would an explanation according to practice be? Probably ending somewhat like this…

(…) on which cars may freely move, people may interact where there are no cars, and all other forms of personal transport should occur elsewhere.

The streets have changed, that’s for sure. I’ve been noticing how motorists are getting less and less observant. Is it because the roads are improved and pedestrians act more careful in the city traffic? Are there simply too few obstacles? At one point, someone got too comfortable…

It’s our street, and apparently we’ll need to take it back! How can we reverse the trend?

Cars of the future

Comment in the norwegian newspaper Dag og Tid ("Day and Time"), 5.2.2010

This talks for itself, but I’ll try to translate the comment as well as possible:
“HYBRID: India shows the way to the post-petroleum society with this pedal driven cabriolet on three wheels in Siliguri in east India. As good as emission free, and goes miles and miles just on a pile chapati… This environmental friendly model will be available in Norway by 2020, if todays oil extraction continues with the same speed.”