how oslo got its fjord back

Barely twenty years, eighteen to be very precise, separate these two series of images. The first hangs in a corridor that connects the great hall of the Oslo Opera House with its dance school. May 2004, “the new Opera”, as indicated above the photo, is still just a platform surrounded by port and industrial buildings. Anyone who wants to get close to the water would have to do it twice: a gigantic highway, dotted with interchanges, skirts the fjord at the bottom of which the Norwegian capital has developed. In a photo taken two years later, the building is taking shape, but still at the heart of a road junction.

The second series has been on display since mid-September, two subway stations away, in the former Edvard Munch Museum, where The Scream, by the famous Norwegian painter, had been stolen. The triennial of architecture and urbanism celebrates its eighthme edition, until October 30. On the walls of one of the rooms, a series of sixteen panels, texts and 3D projections show children with their feet in the water, landing net in hand, together with adults who, when they are not fishing or kayaking, with the confident head, in a bathing suit, towards the sea, a paddle board under his arm. It is no longer a truck or a motorway, but a great promenade, houses with large balconies, obviously bright offices, cafeterias with views of the Opera. The port cranes are barely visible in the distance.

View of the port of Oslo, Norway, on October 3, 2022.

It is little, twenty years, when it comes to the development of a city. However, the contrast is striking. Because this second set of images represents what the immediate surroundings of the Oslo Opera House district could look like in a few years. At least, these are the sixteen projects in which HAV Eiendom, the company in charge of redeveloping the capital’s seafront, wants to support itself to draw the future face of Gronlikaia, where, to this day, containers are still being stacked.

Also read the archive (2021): Article reserved for our subscribers Urban planning: how cities are regaining control over the development of their territories

With Filipstad across the bay, a major freight area and where ferries depart for northern Germany, it is one of the last districts promising sea change on the edge of the fjord. With the completion of these programs, Oslo, which has experienced unprecedented development for three decades, can boast of having regained ten kilometers of direct access to the sea.

The Munch Museum in Oslo.

On the scale of this city of 700,000 inhabitants (more than a million in the conurbation) wedged between the sea and the hills, this reconquest of the fjord – the sum of several projects, in fact – represents only 9,000 new homes among the 100,000 that could see the light here in 2050 But it is also, in the long term, 1.2 million square meters of offices, titanic works to bury a highway, the construction of an opera and great museums that now serve as a showcase for this “small capital of a small country” , who was looking for a place on the international stage.

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