Norway’s Parliament Building Celebrates its 150th Anniversary

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The Storting building (NorwegianStortingsbygningen), the seat of the Storting, the parliament of Norway, is located in central Oslo. It was taken into use on 5 March 1866 and was designed by the Swedish architect Emil Victor Langlet.

Langlet was intent on making the Storting building accessible to the population. The stairs to the Storting Chamber’s public gallery start from just inside one of the three elegant doors, facing main street Karl Johan.

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When the Storting building was completed in 1866, it was unique and innovative. It didn’t look quite like other parliaments; a relatively small building, yet one with a character all of its own. Rather than towering grandly above the people, it joined them at street level, comfortable among the city populace.

The Storting Chamber, its circular form clearly visible to the outside world, provided the population with a tantalizing glimpse of the democratic debate taking place inside. The front of the Storting was an example of how a parliament ought to appear and be: open and accessible, with windows looking out on the electorate, and nine equal entrance doors to invite the public in.

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“By marking the 150th anniversary of the building, we will also be celebrating what takes place inside. This will be a truly festive occasion,” said Olemic Thommessen, President of the Storting.

Today the Storting is among Norway’s most characteristic buildings, and has become an integral part of the urban landscape. Yet the fact that the Storting is sited where it is, and the fact that it looks like it does, was hardly a foregone conclusion. The building’s completion in 1866 was the culmination of several decades of vehement debate about location and design. An architectural competition was arranged, and the original winning entry was a towering neo-Gothic structure. This was never built.

The Nazi-occupied Parliament in 1941
The Nazi-occupied Parliament in 1941

The Storting is a building that richly deserves to be celebrated. 2016 will play host to a wide variety of jubilee events and initiatives, including exhibitions, seminars and city walks. And on 9th May the Storting has invited children to a very special outdoor jubilee party. Invitations have already been sent to all 5th year school classes in Oslo and Akershus. That same afternoon, the Storting will also be opening its doors to the public.

After only a few decades, however, it became clear that Langlet’s Storting was too small. A new architectural competition was announced in 1949, and once again the building became the center of intense debate.

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When celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Storting building, we are also toasting the successful union of two architects and two epochs. “The new has entered into a joyful union with the old,” as President of the Storting, Nils Langhelle, so aptly put it in 1959.

A new book about the Storting building, written by the architect Peter Butenschøn, has been launched. A film about the history of the building will also be given its premiere. Both the book and film will also be available in English.

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The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design will be putting on a special jubilee exhibition to mark the anniversary of the Storting building. The museum will be displaying original drawings and models connected to the process leading up to the building of the Storting in 1866. The anthology Debatten om stortingsbygningen 1836–1866 (“The debate about the Storting building 1836-1866”), edited by Mari Hvattum, will be launched at the opening of the exhibition on 12th March. More about the National Museum’s exhibition.

Norway’s Parliament Building Celebrates its 150th Anniversary, compiled from Stortinget’s official websites