The Government Quarter in Oslo was one of the targets in the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks, where nine people were killed by a bomb blast in the area.
After the attack the Government decided that the Norwegian ministries should be situated together in and around the present government quarter. The aim is to create inspirational workplaces in an attentively designed urban zone.
Around 100 architects, designers, and consultants from Norway and abroad have developed designs in a competition for the new Oslo Government Quarter. The intent of the competition has been to generate viable solutions for the relocation of the ministries, excluding the defense ministry. The emphasis should be on urban atmosphere and public elements.
The H-block (1958) and the Y-block (1969), designed by Erling Viksjø, are key works of modernist architecture in Norway. The high-rise building and the Y-shaped building form a unified ensemble, symbolizing the growth and inventiveness of Norwegian post-war period. The Y-block is also famous for its two major designs by Pablo Picasso.
‘The Seagull’ decorates the wall of the lobby, while ‘The Fishermen’ in the main façade has become an iconic part of the Oslo cityscape.
The decision to maintain an amalgamated government quarter was recommended from a security point of view as well as contributing to efficient interaction and short distance between the ministries and the parliament – the Storting. The high rise building, housing the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Justice had the greatest need for rehabilitation after the damage caused by the bomb.
Done right, Oslo has the opportunity to be on the absolute front edge of sustainable urban development, with a dense city center, beautiful open urban spaces and an attractive workplace. A ten-member committee of industry professionals has been appointed to assist Statsbygg, the public construction advisers collaborating on the government’s behalf.
After initial discussions, including a proposal to build a new Government Quarter on a more remote site for security reasons, the Norwegian Cabinet decided to redevelop the existing area but to demolish the Y-shaped building, since a part of it is situated over a road that is a real security threat.
It has been decided that the high rise building, the tallest building, will be standing. Architects have presented different solutions, some pointing out a myriad of facilities for social gathering. Collaboration and exchanging of ideas are encompassed within the proposal zone.
One suggestion was to build three climbing towers, housing the administrative functions and reorganize the site for improved accessibility. At the ground level, the structures should maintain a public element through the intersection of open urban spaces. The three towers should consist of varying heights, the tallest reaching 105 meters.
The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monimenthas (Fortidsminneforeningen) ran an intensive campaign to save the Y-block, receiving support of a number of prominent organizations and individuals from Norway, as well as ICOMOS, and has nominated it for ‘The 7 Most Endagered’ program 2016.
The urban area within the city center is populated by over 6000 members of the government staff.
Minister of Local Government and Modernization, Jan Tore Sanner, has clarified that a mixture of features from the submitted proposals will be realized in the next stages of development.
What now, Oslo?
Feature image (on top): Government Square, as proposed by White architects.
What Now, Oslo?, written by Tor Kjolberg