l i v i n g r o o m . w o r k s h o p

Yes, I’m a bit late this year, getting my bikes ready for the road. (Until now I’ve been using Oslo bysykkel, which is not a great substitute for my own bike, but it works just fine for some errands.) First one got a new tube, some adjustments and polishing done today. It still lacks a front brake, so I might fix it at Den rustne eike on thursday.

This is actually the first time I’ve used my living room as a bike workshop. Such a nice feeling having all the bicycle parts scattered around the room. I’ll do it again, very soon.


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…

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.

Bicycles day 2010 – Oslo

Yesterday was Bicycles day  (Sykkelens dag) downtown Oslo. I joined a small and nice bike ride (somewhat like Critical Mass) from Birkelunden to Rådhusplassen, organized by Syklistenes landsforening

Bike to work or Tour de Finance

Today is the start of the two month “Bike to work”-campaign in Norway. It’s arranged by the corporate sports, and is the largest national action with the aim of motivating people to move and be active.

Bike to work 2010

It’s a good campaign, and it seems to be quite popular in Oslo. There’s no doubt, Norwegians are competitive. And any chance to show strenght and/or win something will trigger the Norwegian adventurer…

But there’s one catch. Where will they bike?
Yesterday I tried out a couple of hundred meters of the famous (and notorious) Tour de Finance-road, going from the west to the centre of Oslo. It was indeed an interesting experience. For those of you not knowing anything about this stretch, it is the most used “bikepath” in Oslo. I say “bikepath”, cause it really isn’t. Large parts of the stretch are shared with pedestrians. You might think that shared is not to bad… but it most definitely is. Especially when you continuously meet groups like this:

Illustration photo. (But quite close to the truth...)

Last week someone presented the idea of making a four lane path along the “Tour de Finance”-distance, dividing bicyclists and pedestrians. After my experience yesterday, I think it would be the only reasonable thing to do! Give bicyclists space, and many many more will pedal to work.

Utrivelege Oslo?

Bykjernen er proppa av bilar,
men endå skal det proppast inn fleire.
Oslo er for lengst blitt ein utriveleg by,
men han skal bli endå meir utriveleg.

– Reidar T. Larsen, politisk kommentator i Dag og Tid, 15. april 1970

Rådhusgata 1962. Kilde: http://www.oslobilder.no

Og endå meir utriveleg blei det…

Fotografiet er fra prosjektet og boka ''Oslo-bilder. En fotografisk dokumentasjon av bo og leveforhold i 1981 - 82''. Kilde: http://www.oslobilder.no

Trafikkmiljø i Dronning Mauds gate. Rushtrafikk. Ruseløkka skole i bakgrunnen til venstre. Biler i kø og syklist på fortauet. Fotografiet er fra prosjektet og boka ''Oslo-bilder. En fotografisk dokumentasjon av bo og leveforhold i 1981 - 82''. Kilde: http://www.oslobilder.no

The Norwegian Cyclist – Media’s Portrait

Once again the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten gives a portrait of the typical Oslo cyclist. Is it to give the cyclists more respect in the traffic, or to help their already poor image? Probably not. Medias has an underestimated power in shaping peoples stance. When will they focus on the important issues of mobility, access to the road, motorists attitude and environmental effects of bicycling?

The sportscyclists as portrayed here, bike in any weather, and they’re definitely not representatives for Oslos population…
Hopefully the spring brings more style to the streets!

Aftenposten Aften, 23.3.2010

Winter “Wonderland”

It’s about time to get out of the winter lair… I’ve had a way to long break, but now I’m finally settled in Oslo, and trying to get back on track, which seems to be harder than I thought. The winter has been snowy and colder than usual (this early in the wintertime), and all respect to those few I saw biking despite minus 20 earlier this month.

Yes, people do bicycle, and several norwegian newspapers report that the amount of year-round cyclists increase. Now even “normal” people hit the snowy streets. Well, they have to be somewhat tough to do so, and I admit I’m not one of them… Maybe it’s because of the lack of proper gear, but another issue is the bad snow shoveling of bicycle lanes in the city. The few lanes that actually exist usually serve as disposal for snow, or even car parking, and lack of space makes people insecure. To get more people to concider winter cycling, the streets must be cleared, and not only in favor of the cars…

Would you even consider your bicycle?

No bicycle city

A couple of weeks ago this image dumped into my inbox twice, from two different friends… It’s an article from a Norwegian newspaper telling about the top five and bottom five bicycle cities in Norway. Of course Oslo is in the bottom five. :(

It’s definitely a contributing factor that the newspapers write more and more about the issue, but there’s a long way to the top. And the Norwegian top is probably not even close to the standard of bicycle cities around the world. We need some new and greater goals, and a kick in the ass!

Carrot or stick?

rules are rules
The great bicycle-discussion in Oslo at the moment is about how to handle the (few) bicyclists that exist. Should they be punished with a 900kr fine for biking on red, or should they be rewarded for biking instead of driving?

This is clearly a result of the lacking culture for using bicycling as a mean of transport in the city. The common Norwegian thought of bicycling is that it’s something you do for your own entertainment and fitness. Neither bicyclists, drivers or pedestrians are adjusted to handle bicycles as a natural part of the urban transport. (Not to forget that many of the bicyclists that dare to bike in the car traffic are either fearless or extreme sport-enthusiasts.)

And here we have one of the main differences between Oslos and Copenhagens bicycle culture. Where Oslo lacks both clear rules/common thoughts of how to bike in the city as well as respectable bicycle space in the streets, Copenhagen has rules and regulations that goes along with the highly developed bicycle transport network.

No wonder people get frustrated. How do one react to something there’s no room for?

Links to Norwegian news/discussions: