how Oslo reclaimed its fjord

Barely twenty years, eighteen to be precise, separate these two series of images. The first hangs in a corridor that connects the main hall of the Oslo Opera House to the dance school. May 2004, “the new Opera”, as indicated in the photo above, is still just a platform surrounded by harbor and industrial warehouses. Anyone who wants to approach the water has to do it twice: a gigantic highway, interrupted by junctions, borders the fjord at the bottom of which the Norwegian capital has developed. In a photo taken two years later, the building is beginning to take shape, but still at the heart of an intersection.

The second series can be seen two metro stations away since mid-September, in the former Edvard Munch Museum, where The Scream, by the famous Norwegian painter, was stolen. The triennial architecture and urban planning keeps its 8e edition, until October 30. On the walls of one of the rooms, a series of sixteen panels, texts and 3D projections depict children with their feet in the water, landing net in hand, alongside adults who, when not fishing or walking around in a kayak, confident, in a bathing suit, towards the sea, a paddleboard under their arm. No longer a truck or a highway, but an expansive promenade, homes with large balconies, bright offices, of course, cafes overlooking the Opera. You can hardly make out the harbor cranes in the distance.

View of the harbor in Oslo, Norway, on October 3, 2022.

It is short, twenty years, when it comes to the development of a city. Yet the contrast is striking. Because this second series of images shows what the immediate surroundings of the Oslo Opera district could look like in a few years. At least, these are the sixteen projects on which HAV Eiendom, the company responsible for the redevelopment of the capital’s coast, wants to draw the future face of Gronlikaia, where containers are still stacked today.

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With a large cargo area on the other side of the bay and with ferries departing for northern Germany, Filipstad is one of the last neighborhoods to undergo radical change on the edge of the fjord. Once these programs are completed, Oslo, which has undergone unprecedented development over three decades, will boast 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 agglomeration) wedged between the sea and the hills, this reconquest of the fjord – an addition of several projects, in reality – represents only 9,000 new homes out of the 100,000 that could see the light of day ‘here in 2050. But it is also, in the long run, 1.2 million square meters of offices, titanic works to bury a highway, the construction of an opera house and great museums that now serve as the showcase for this ‘small capital of a small country” that was looking for a place on the international stage.

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