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Creative Oslo

The coming of each season and the changing light seems to bring with it a new wave of activities to the city. Autumn with its brilliant colours enliven inspire creativity as the slanting and changing light entices and enhances city nightlife. Winter transforms, alive with theatre, art exhibitions, music, and the wide range of artistic expressions. Springtime brings the city into bloom, and then the summer sun returns, the city coming alive with festivals, concerts, and outdoor life as its very best.

Norway’s thousand year old capital is a chameleon city, constantly renewing itself and changing with the seasons. Oslo combines some of the most fascinating architectural juxtapositions in Europe – witness, for example, the magnificent Akershus fortress, which dates back to the late 13th century, just a few minutes walk from the city’s newest attraction, a spectacular iceberg shaped opera house, rising up majestically from the fjord.

Outside Blå, one of many creative spaces in Oslo.
© Ida Næss Wangen

Creativity with Class
Cultural life in Oslo flourishes as never before, with an impressive variety that ranges from national institutions to artist-driven studios, art spaces and venues, with small groups and individuals creating new expressions and experiences. This is the fastest growing economic sector in the Oslo region, showing the results of a city in growth, with the increasing importance of employment as well as the quality of people’s everyday lives. According to Dr. Erling Dokk Holm of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, “The economy is driven by the attractiveness of a region, and for development to be successful, areas should be attractive even after hours. Cultural industries play an important role here.”

The world is taking notice, included as the highest new entry in Monocle’s list of “Most Liveable Cities”. Add to that the fact that the magazine ‘Wallpaper’ has now included Oslo in its “Wallpaper Guides” – the city has now claimed its place among the world’s hippest design and architecture cities, culture, music and art. This is an excellent signal, according to Therese Holm Thorvaldsen, Cluster Coordinator for Culture in Oslo Teknopol, “The inclusion of Oslo by Monocle and Wallpaper is a clear sign that the city’s cultural diversity, creativity, and what it has to offer both residents and visitors is becoming more and more well-known internationally.”

The Oslo region is a national magnet for cultural industries, with twice as many people employed in cultural industries as the national average. An indication of culture’s importance here has been reflected in the establishment of the Oslo Culture Network (OKN) as an official member association. OKN is a collaborative network of stakeholders that aims to strengthen the cluster and contribute to long-term growth through international cooperation, marketing, project development and other activities.

Cultural Giants
Oslo is famous as the home of some of the great literary and artistic figures of the 20th century and beyond. The great sculptor Gustav Vigeland designed over two hundred sculptures in Vigeland Sculpture Park, including the giant monolith and plateau, depicting figures at various stages in the ‘circle of life’ – from the embryo to old age. The sometimes humorous and emotion-laden statues, including the famous Sinnatagen – the angry little boy – are some of the most definitive works of modern sculpture.

The father of modern drama, Henrik Ibsen, has a museum dedicated to him in Oslo, and his plays are performed regularly at the Norwegian National Theatre. Edvard Munch is prominently on display at the National Gallery, which houses an extensive collection of Norwegian and international art and sculpture including a number of well-known works by French impressionists.

Munch, famous for his painting The Scream, and Madonna, naturally exhibited at Tøyen´s Munch Museum - and part of a major city initiative that will see the museum moved as part of the development of a “City within a City” (see separate article) at Bjørvika. The architecture promises to be nothing less than astounding, with the new Munch Museum (architect Juan Herreros) to be joined by the Opera and Ballet House already in place (architect: Snøhetta); joined by architecture by Sverre Fehn (National Museum of Architecture), Renzo Piano (Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art) and Lund Hagen (the Deichmanske Library).

Anselm Kiefer, Zweistromland/The High Priestess, 1986-89. 370 x 780 x 50 cm. 183 lead books in 2 steel bookcases, copper wire, glass, photographs and various organic materials. Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway.
© Tore H. Røyneland

History and Art
According to Oslo Teknopol’s trend analyst Sondre Sommerfelt, another “must see” is the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo’s own Moma or Tate Modern, “Astrup Fearnley is a museum that must not be missed. Located in the offices of shipping dynasty Astrup Fearnley, it will soon get its own landmark by star architect Renzo Piano by the seafront. The museum has a high reputation in the modern art scene as they have been very clever to catch latest trends and at the same time keep a steady profile which focus on young and experimental art from both sides of the Atlantic.”

The National Gallery is part of an overwhelmingly extensive museum scene in Oslo. Indeed, it is almost impossible to count the number of museums packed into the city and its environs, covering every imaginable historical period, movement, taste and sensibility. Amongst the highlights is the Nobel Peace Centre, which was opened in 2005 to coincide with the centenary of Norway’s independence.

Elsewhere, Norway’s proud Viking and maritime history is explored at Bygdøy, with museums including The Norwegian Maritime Museum, The Kon-Tiki Museum and The Viking Ship Museum, which presents the world’s two best preserved Viking ships, built in the 9th century, as well as a collection of artefacts from Gokstad, Oseberg, Tune and various Viking tombs from around the Oslo fjord. Built in oak, these Viking ships and artefacts show the beautiful aesthetics of the Viking craftsmen and are proof that these people were not just barbarians.

Creativity in all Formats
The creative culture in the Oslo region also extends to cuisine in all forms, in restaurants as well as innovative initiatives such as at the Vulkan (Volcano), with a food hall under development where manufacturers, merchants, chefs, food boutiques and deli managers, as well as all types of food enthusiasts will be able to meet and share experiences


DogA was established by Norsk Form and the Norwegian Design Council in 2004, as a meeting place for design, architecture and related subject areas. The old transformer station in Hausmanns gate 16 is an arena for large and small architecture and design exhibitions, conferences and meetings, as well as a shop, café and restaurant. Hausmanns gate 16 was awarded the National Building Prize in 2006, the City Prize in 2007 and St. Olav’s Rose, and the hallmark of Norwegian heritage, in 2008.




For literature enthusiasts and writers, Oslo has a new, unique status in Europe. A dedicated, five-storey House of Literature (Litteraturhus) was established in 2007 at the site of Oslo’s former teacher training college. Houses of literature are in themselves a rarity, especially outside Germany, and Oslo’s Litteraturhus is the largest and perhaps best equipped in Europe. Designed as a meeting place for lovers of books, reading and literature, it has already attracted a host of well-known fiction and non-fiction writers as speakers. Amongst them are some of the world’s most controversial and revolutionary thinkers, in keeping with the ideals of the Freedom of Expression Foundation, which is one of the house’s most important supporters. In a national context, the House of Literature has become an increasingly important centre for public debate.
Tariq Ali, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers and more than a hundred Norwegian scholars and writers have all put in appearances at the House of Literature, which has proved popular, attracting more than 150,000 visitors. Also on site are a café, specialist bookshop, and a loft with fifty available working spaces for writers.

The Famous Gokstad Ship at the Vikingship Museum.

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