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  • Writer's pictureMichal Jerzy

Visiting Oslo, Norway.

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

Oslo bursts as one of the fastest growing metropolis and design hub.

Oslo is a city with a hidden beauty that I always wanted to explore and find out if it was possible to capture the specific feeling of bicycling home from a party early in the morning just as the sun is coming up.

Oslo bursts as one of the fastest growing metropolis in Europe thanks to the wise use of its oil wealth. Norway has come a long way from being one of the poorer countries in Europe 50 years ago. It has been ranked in the top liveable cities in various index (by Economist, Mercer, Monocle).

In their review of Oslo’s liveability, rankings cite the Norwegian capital city’s investment in design, architecture and public services that are recognized as benchmarks for the world. The iconic new opera house is a landmark of contemporary architecture in Norway.  Waterfront renewal projects are transforming the city post industrial districts.

My journey to Norway began on board of Norwegian Air. With WiFi on board during the flight, pleasant service and punctuality I could not have asked for more considering that Norwegian Air is an economy airline. A successful case study for low fare air business.

On a per-capita basis, it is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East, and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the  gross domestic product. The country maintains a Nordic welfare model with universal health care, subsidized higher education, and a comprehensive social security system. From 2001 to 2006, and then again from 2009 through 2011, Norway has had the highest human development index ranking in the world. Norway is Europe’s Qatar: a country so wealthy that despite having a population of just 4.5 million, it is a major player on the world stage. Yet Oslo is nowhere Europe’s Doha (Qatar’s capital city). What is striking for any visitor, is that one will not find here grandeur architectural projects like skyscrapers in Doha, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi or Dubai, artificial islands, foreign branches of worlds famous museums like Louvre, or huge luxury resorts.

The city has a very toned down character, well thought urban design and sustainable development strategy with green inner parks and natural parks around it.Blessed with wooded mountains and a pristine fjord, Oslo is an outdoor-sports paradise. It reminded me a lot of Vancouver setting (landscape), or Ottawa (look and feel) back in Canada. Very picturesque with well preserved heritage architecture mixed with Bauhaus style contemporary functional buildings.  Oslo is also the most expensive city in Europe, surpassing even London (as far as costs of living are concerned). It is also the most cosmopolitan city in Norway with 25% of foreign born residents marking its presence on the diverse streets of Oslo.

Two decades of growing wealth and immigration have helped make Oslo one of Europe’s fastest-growing cities. Developers are bringing modern housing and office projects to the city’s vast waterfront. For many architects, Oslo has become a safe haven from Europe’s economic turmoil. New architectural projects currently under construction are not only changing the city’s humble skyline, putting the city on the cutting-edge of architectural design. And nowhere can Oslos’s transformation be better seen than in the new quarter of Operakvarteret, where a 20,000 square-meter, mixed use development project has brought various, innovative architects together to design a new face for Oslo.

Extensive use of plain wood and stone are common traits of many new buildings across Norway and Oslo, showcasing sleek, simple shapes that nevertheless bring to mind mountains and glaciers. In many cases, the architects have focused on creating warm, open spaces that capture precious daylight, in a country where the winter sun sets shortly after noon – if it rises at all. These structures are not visualized in isolation, but in relation to surrounding landscapes and other buildings, frequently with a touch of symbolism.

The Barcode Project is the city’s flagship architectural new landmark. Situated in the newly established Operakvarteret along Oslo’s vast waterfront, this development is attracting innovative architects to provide high-end apartments, community and commercial spaces, and vast amenities to the fjord, marina and medieval parks. The Barcode Project got its name from the building concept: six parallel lots of varying dimensions upon which parallel towers were planned.  The towers, distinct in their shape and character, expression and materiality, stand against the otherwise low skyline, rising like barcode stripes along the waterfront. The full scale of the Barcode Project includes up to a dozen buildings, varying in height from nine to seventeen stories. When included it will become one of the most recognisable landmarks of modern Oslo, along with the new Opera House and the upcoming Astrup Fearnley Museet.

For more visit the Photography Gallery: Visit Norway

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