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Norwegian Architecture is a mix of many styles, both modern and traditional. There is certainly plenty to absorb in the country both as a tourist and for those who appreciate varied architecture. It has evolved in response to changing economic conditions, technological advances, demographic fluctuations, and cultural shifts. While outside architectural influences are apparent in much of Norwegian architecture, they have often been adapted to meet Norwegian climatic conditions, including harsh winters, high winds, and, in coastal areas, salt spray.
Prior to the Viking Age, wooden structures developed into sophisticated crafts evident in the elegant and effective construction of the Viking settlements. Following that, Romanesque architecture in cathedrals and churches was introduced, with characteristically slightly pointed arches, barrel vaults, cruciform piers supporting vaults, and groin vaults; because of religious influence from England.
In recent decades, newer and more exciting structures have taken centre stage. Some of these new modern masterpieces have been designed with the natural environment firmly in mind. Other times, they must work alongside the old, traditional buildings still standing. Construction in Norway has always been characterized by the need to shelter people, animals, and property from harsh weather, including predictably cold winters and frost, heavy precipitation in certain areas, wind and storms.
Architectural Styles of Norway
The first stone churches in Norway were Romanesque. Later churches were influenced by Continental architecture.
Several churches that were originally built as Romanesque structures were changed or extended during the Gothic period. Among these are the cathedral of Hamar.
After the Black Death, monumental construction in Norway came to a standstill, except for vernacular building, only to be resumed in the 16th and 17th centuries under the Danish administration.
It provided a brief but significant interlude in Norway, appearing primarily in the decorative arts, and mainly in interiors, furniture, and luxury articles such as table silver, glass, and stoneware. The main reason for the rapid adoption of this custom was the more fashionable appearance of boarded walls, which were more suitable than bare log walls as a background to details and ornaments borrowed from classical architecture.
Although most residences were built according to local vernacular traditions, some manors exhibit the influence of Baroque architecture.
The German architectural influence persisted in Norway, and many wooden buildings followed the principles of Neoclassicism. one of the few brick houses in Norway, boasts a palladian layout, a central cupola, and a classical colonnade.
Must see places for an Architect
The wooden trading houses of Bryggen are a shining example of traditional Norwegian architecture. So much so, the area is one of Norway’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. In the Middle Ages, Bergen was the major port of export for dried fish and fish oil from northern Norway. German merchants joined the trade, offering grains in return. A Hanseatic trading centre was established to manage this trade.
Throughout history, Bergen has experienced many fires, since most of its houses were traditionally made from wood. This was also the case for Bryggen, and as of today around a quarter were built after 1702, when the older wharf-side warehouses and administrative buildings burned down. The rest predominantly consists of younger structures, although there are some stone cellars that date back to the 15th century.
The area was ravaged by fire several times, so the buildings today date from the early 18th century. They were, however, built in keeping with the traditions and the original compact, urban structure, including the narrow wooden passages. Notable houses at Bryggen include Bellgården (a 300-year-old building),Svensgården, Bugården, Engelgården and many more. The oldest and tallest building in the area is St Mary’s Church. Streets include Jacobsfjorden.
Oslo Opera House, Oslo
One of the most iconic and recognized buildings was designed by the world-renowned Snøhetta and opened in 2008. Oslo Opera House is the home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway. The building’s contemporary style was designed with its location on the waterfront in mind. Its exterior is angular and sloping while the bright white granite and Italian marble help to create the look of an iceberg.
The structure contains 1,100 rooms in a total area of 49,000 m2. The main auditorium seats 1,364 and two other performance spaces can seat 200 and 400. The main stage is 52 ft wide and 130 ft deep. The Opera House has also won various awards, including the World Architecture Festival Cultural Award in 2008 and the Mies van Der Rohe award in 2009.
The roof of the building angles to ground level, creating a large plaza that invites pedestrians to walk up and enjoy the panoramic views of Oslo. The lobby is surrounded by 49 ft tall windows with minimal framing and special glass that allows maximum views of the water. The roof is supported by thin angled columns, also designed not to interfere with views. Interior surfaces are covered in oak to bring warmth to spaces in contrast to the coolness of the white exterior. The main auditorium is a horseshoe shape and illuminated by an oval chandelier containing 5,800 handmade crystals.
The New Porsgrunn Church, Porsgrunn
Ostre Porsgrunn Church was a church in the Rococo style built in 1760 and in the city of Porsgrunn, Norway. In 2011, the building was destroyed by a fire. The new Porsgrunn East Church opened after the original was destroyed by fire. But its modern design has split opinion among locals of the Telemark town.
As a reference to the chalky white church that stood on the site, the interior and facades are made of white porcelain. The choice of materials looks back on Porsgrunn’s industrial history. The colour and materials symbolise the highest purity. Light, which fills the church, plays a central role in symbolising hope and return. The church occupies 11 different geometric volumes that are ordered by height based on their importance.
Designed to attract attention to the building, the spire is the highest form, followed by a pair of chapels that are topped by towers. 6 slightly shorter structures, which surround the church’s main hall, contain other functions, including the sacristy and the organ, while the technical spaces are in the shortest volume at the rear of the building. Within the church, its doors, suspended ceiling, and furniture are all made from oak to contrast the porcelain walls and add warmth to the interior. Above the altar is a frieze made from one hundred pieces of burnt glazed porcelain.
Victoria Terrasse, Oslo
Victoria Terrasse is a historic building complex in central Oslo. It’s a collection of buildings in the central part of Oslo, near to the Royal Palace. The Terrasse has a bright, white façade which is contrasted against a grey roof that, depending on what time of the day you view it, can offer something different each time. The luxury apartment complex was designed by Henrik Thrap-Meyer with the help of Wilhelm von Hanno, Paul Due and Richard Steckmes. It was built between 1884 and 1890.
It comprised three quarters and provided a fashionable residential complex. The complex’s features included rich profiling and a wide variety of wrought iron detail. The building complex used electric power and had the largest apartments along the main facade. The facades are articulated with relatively deeply profiled horizontal bands that mark the two main floors. The exterior is made of polished tiled brick painted white, enhanced by decorative towers, domes, and cupolas.
Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim
Another famous piece of architecture in Trondheim is Nidaros Cathedral, or Nidarosdomen in Norwegian. It was founded around the year 1070 and was built on the burial site of Olav Haraldsson. The large, stone church seats about 1,850 people and it was historically used as the site of coronation of the kings of Norway. The Nidaros Cathedral is one of Norway’s finest examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The soapstone that it’s made from is perfect for carving ornate details both inside and outside.
In 1708, the church burned down completely except for the stone walls. It was struck by lightning in 1719 and was again ravaged by fire. Major rebuilding and restoration of the cathedral started in 1869. The oldest parts of the cathedral comprise the octagon with its surrounding ambulatory. This was the site of the original high altar, with the reliquary casket of Saint Olav, and choir. Design of the octagon may have been inspired by the Corona of Canterbury Cathedral, although octagonal shrines have a long history of Christian architecture.
The present cathedral has two principal altars. At the east end of the chancel in the octagon is an altar at the site of the medieval high altar, behind which stood the silver reliquary casket containing the remains of St. Olav. The original reliquary casket was in the form of a church, with dragon heads on its gables. The dragons are like those carved on the gables of Norwegian stave churches.
All the stained glass in the cathedral dates from its rebuilding in the 19th and 20th centuries. The windows on the north side of the church depict scenes from the Old Testament against a blue background, while those on the south side depict scenes from the New Testament against a red background.
Powerhouse Brattørkaia, Trondheim
Powerhouse presents a unique opportunity to explore how to harvest and store solar energy under challenging conditions. The 18000 sq. m. office building is situated by the harbour and connects to Trondheim Central Station via a pedestrian bridge on the rear end of the building. The waterfront facade is the slimmest face of the building, allowing the project to be read at a similar scale with its neighbours, clad with black aluminium and solar panels. The building’s site has been carefully chosen to ensure maximum exposure to the sun throughout the day and seasons.
Its skewed, pentagonal roof and the upper part of the façade is clad with of solar panels, strategically placed to harvest as much solar energy as possible. The building is extremely energy efficient, leveraging a series of technologies to radically reduce energy use for its daily operations. This is accomplished through insulating the building for maximum efficiency, installing intelligent solutions for airflow to reduce the need for heating, heat recovery solutions for ventilation, using seawater for heating and cooling, and implementing only energy-efficient electrical appliances.
Within this illuminated core is an atrium that functions as a public garden with horizontal glass windows on the sides, providing skylight into the below canteen. This skewed light-well allows daylight to enter the building on every floor and gives the people working inside a great view of the city. In order to reduce energy use on lighting, the building employs a concept called “liquid light”, which allows the artificial light to smoothly dim up and down according to the activity and movement in the building.
Cabin Verdehaugen, Karmoy
This cabin acts as a perfect gateway in the Winterland. Filled with privacy and exquisite views, this is a relaxation vacation. The cabin is on the top of a rocky hill on the outermost coast of Fosen. The building is carefully placed and designed in relation to the local terrain, the panoramic view, and the specific climactic conditions in the area. A variety of sheltered outdoor spaces enables a dynamic and social relation between the cabin and the surrounding landscape. Besides this, the design aims to address the traditional, plain and pragmatic building culture in the area.
Ibsen Library, Skien
Named Ibsen Library, the building will become a cultural hub to exhibit the literature of Henrik Ibsen–a 19th-century playwright who was born in the Norwegian city. It will be built in a small park in central Skien alongside the Ibsenhuset–the city’s cultural centre and concert hall that is also named after the playwright. Kengo Kuma and Associates have collaborated with Mad Arkitekter on the design of a library that will curve around existing trees in a small urban park in Skien.
The library’s design should preserve and celebrate its parkland setting while maximising its potential as a public space. The building’s curved form will be formed around the existing trees, while a new outdoor amphitheatre and multiple access points will help to connect the building with the park. Large areas of glazing will also be introduced along one edge of the building to create the feeling of seamless outdoor and indoor space. To maximise this connection to surrounding trees and parkland, the design utilises a natural material palette dominated by tactile, warm woods.
Externally, one of the most notable features of the Ibsen Library will be its softly curving, staggered roof, which lowers towards the park. It will also feature deep eaves that will shelter entrances to the library and double as covered outdoor spaces and seating areas. Set to be built on a sloping site, Ibsen Library will have two storeys above ground and two embedded in the hillside. Most spaces are expected to be open in plan and free of fixed partitions, with bookcases used as dividers instead.
The Triangular Toilet, Farstadsanden beach
The toilet, along with spaces for 150 cars and a fence that restricts access to neighbouring fields, was built on one of the Norwegian Scenic Routes to serve the local beach. Made in a local shipyard from aluminum, before being floated on a barge to the site, the Farstadsanden beach toilet block is an equilateral triangle in plan. It contains an accessible toilet in a double-height space that has a large window, as well as a regular toilet and a room for storage that gives access to the first-floor equipment room. There is also an outdoor shower.
3 reasons for this concept is coming to use were foremost it’s about facilitating a large parking area in a vulnerable agricultural landscape that also functions well when not in use. Second about creating a boundary structure that guides visitors towards the beach area, without being an alien element, either to the surroundings or to visitors. And third, it was about placing the toilet building in a withdrawn position by the treeline, which is the traditional way of placing such structures close to the roadside.
The grass paving allows the parking area to blend with the surrounding fields and provides a gradual transition to the fields with the same grass growing on both sides of the fence. The toilet is placed in a relatively withdrawn position and will be even more so when the trees grow, but it has a relation in its scale, and its sign-like facade, to navigational sea marks.
Equinor Fornebu, Oslo
The Equinor Fornebu is an office building in Oslo, but not just an average office building. It’s the home of the state-owned energy company Equinor whose Oslo offices are based there. The striking building comprises five blocks. Each block has 3 floors and is 140-metre-long and 23 metres wide. The building was opened in 2012 and houses 2,500 employees across its 11,700 sq. m floor space. It’s a daring design and one that challenges the eye, offering something quite different with the changing light of each season.