Changing before the times - Architecture in Norway

Frank Lloyd Wright once said “I believe in God, only I spell it ‘Nature’.” Norwegian architects share much of that feeling, in tune with both practical considerations as well as their natural surroundings. These elements help to provide Norwegian architects with a special balance of inspiration and creativity that is readily identifiable in their unique work.

Nina Berre, Architect Director of Norsk Form explains, “There is an increasing interest abroad in Norwegian contemporary architecture. This is due to several factors that include the ability of Norwegian architects to make use of traditional skills in adapting buildings to topographically demanding terrain, and at the same time being able to redefine tradition to achieve innovative results.” This international success has been spearheaded by the architect firm Snøhetta, whose highly praised projects include the National Library Alexandrina in Saudi Arabia, the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin, and the new National Opera House in Oslo.
 
Deep Roots & Strong Support
Still, there is no such thing as an overnight success. Norwegian architecture roots go deep, ranging from the elegant and effective construction of the Viking ships, to the beauty of the medieval cathedrals and churches, and to modern times, with Sverre Fehn being considered by most to be the father of current Norwegian architecture. In addition to designing such famous national buildings as the Norwegian Glacier Museum, and the Norwegian Museum of Photography, Fehn was a professor at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) for more than 30 years until retiring in 1995.
 
Norsk Form stands central in the Norwegian architecture environment. This information- and project-based institution in the field of design, architecture and urban planning uses exhibitions, publications, conferences, media projects and other initiatives to draw attention to and improve understanding of the importance of design and architecture. Norway’s strong network also features the National Association of Norwegian Architects, as well as excellent educational institutions such as the AHO, the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and the Bergen School of Architecture.
 
Snøhetta has received a great deal of praise for this project, the National Library Alexandrina.
© Snøhetta

And the Winners Are…
Norsk Form also organizes and stages annual prestigious awards that include the Jacob’s Prize – the highest award within Norwegian Architecture and Design; the Honours Award and the Award for Young Designers. In 2007, the annual Honours Award went to the St. Olav Hospital Project, cited for its holistic integration of architecture, building and landscape; all with a strong environmental perspective. There was also considerable focus on landscape architecture to accentuate the positive effect that the local environment plays with regard to people’s health and their ability to recover from illnesses.
 
Haugen/Zohar won the 2007 Norsk Form Award for the Best Young Designers. These architects established their company in 2004, and have already gained much attention for their architecture, design, exhibitions and publications. Finally, Jan Olav Jensen and Børre Skodvin founded the firm Jensen & Skovin Arkitektkontor AS in 1995, and since then have received much acclaim for their work. In 2006 they were awarded the National Building Award for the transformation of the Norwegian Center for Design and Architecture (see separate article in this magazine), and in 2007 received the most important architecture prize in Norway, the Jacob Prize, for their consistently creative and professional work since their founding.
 
Several examples of their work were recently chosen by a Norwegian newspaper as two of the most important 12 post-war architectural works in Norway. In addition, a collection of the work done by the architects since they began, Processed Geometries 1995 to 2007, was released simultaneously with the opening of an exhibition at the Galerie d`Architeture, Paris, in September 2007. Other major current Jensen & Skodvin projects include two buildings in the Tjuvholmen project, a major renovation of a city sector of Oslo and participation in the National Tourist Route Project in Norway.
 
Sustainably Environmental
Helen & Hard was founded in 1996, and since that time has proved itself to be a consistent award winner, nominated as one of the world’s 50 up-and-coming architect firms in Wallpaper’s 10-year jubilee issue. Transformation and innovation are the key words in their wide range of projects within interior design, architecture and town planning. Sustainability and environmental cooperation with the Norwegian oil industry are featured in a housing project called ‘Base Camp’, as well as ‘Geopark’, an activity park for youth, both projects made with material comprised of recycled elements from the oil industry. 
 
Helen & Hard’s success lies in its ability to creatively evaluate its roles as architects in order to provide clients with optimal solutions. Says co-founder Reinhard Kropf, “Helen & Hard take into account not only the creativity and needs of the specific project in question, but also relates the architecture to sustainability, environment and spaces of possibilities, as we are more curious about what we in our role as architects can do, than what this role should be.”
 
St. Olav Hospital features a holistic integration of architecture, building and landscape.
© Grete Britt Fredriksen

More Where that Came From!
The architectural talent runs deep in this country, and includes such firms as LPO, Dark, Narud-Stokke-Viig, MMW and 3RW Architects. Others such Kristin Jarmund are well versed in urban and environmental planning and consulting, with major successful projects including remodelling of the city centre of the seaside town of Sandvika, and the renovation of “Vestbanen”, the historic former railway station in Oslo.
 
Architect firms such as Code lend their creative impulses to developing the new generation of Norwegian office buildings, and have received national and international recognition for their work. Others such as Cubus are seen as a leading representative of what was called “The Bergen School” in Norwegian architecture, and Jarmund/Vignæs is doing excellent business in Norway and other European countries, focusing on public buildings and housing projects’ “early participation in creative programming”.
 
The wave of Norwegian architects is on the rise. PUSHAK is recognized as a young company with great potential, and the magazine Monocle picked architects Brendeland & Kristoffersen as one of nine “…design talents for 2008 and beyond”. This is only the tip of the Norwegian architectural iceberg. Look for the continued rise of Norwegian architecture, coming soon to buildings near you!

Helen & Hard-designed “Exploration Center” in the mountains of Western Norway.
Award-winning Haugen/Zohar integrates the disciplines of landscape, architecture and sculpture, here with their Norwegian Sculpture Biennale 2006.
© Helen & Hard

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