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Latitude/Longitude: 59.907514, 10.7529898
The government wanted the Opera House to be a landmark for Norway as a cultural nation, highlighting the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, and also the foundation for the urban redevelopment of the area.
The Opera won the culture award at the “World Architecture Festival” in Barcelona in October 2008. In April 2009, the Opera House was pronunced the winner of the 2009 “Mies van der Rohe award”, the European Union prize for contemporary architecture.
The operahouse is the realisation of the winning competion entry. Four diagrams, which were part of the entry, explain the building’s basic concept.
The wave wall
Opera and ballet are young artforms in Norway. These artforms evolve in an international setting . The Bjørvika peninsula is part of a harbour city, which is historically the meeting point with the rest of the world.. The dividing line between the ground “here” and the water “there” is both a real and a symbolic threshold. This threshold is realised as a large wall on the line of the meeting between land and sea, Norway and the world, art and everyday life. This is the threshold where the public meet the art.
A detailed brief was developed as a basis for the competition. Snøhetta proposed that the production facitities of the operahouse should be realised as a self contained, rationally planned “factory”. This factory should be both functional and flexible during the planning phase as well as in later use. This flexibility has proved to be very important during the planning phase: a number of rooms and romm groups have been adjusted in collaboration with the end user. These changes have improved the buildings functionality without affecting the architecture.
The competion brief stated that the operahouse should be of high architectural quality and should be monumental in it s expression. One idea stood out as a legitimation of this monumentality: The concept of togetherness, joint ownership, easy and open access for all. To achieve a monumentality based on these notions architect wished to make the opera accessible in the widest possible sense, by laying out a “carpet” of horizontal and sloping surfaces on top of the building. This carpet has been given an articulated form, related to the cityscape. Monumentality is achieved through horizontal extension and not verticality.
The conceptual basis of the competition, and the final building, is a combination of these three elements – the wave wall, the factory and the carpet.
The operahouse is the first element in the planned transformation of this area of the city. In 2010 the heavy traffic beside the building will be moved into a tunnel under the fjord. Due to its size and aesthetic expression, the operahouse will stand apart from other buildings in the area. The marble clad roofscape forms a large public space in the landscape of the city and the fjord.
The public face of the operahouse faces west and north – while at the same time, the building s profile is clear from a great distance from the fjord to the south. Viewed from the Akershus castle and from the grid city the building creates a relationship between the fjord and the Ekerberg hill to the east. Seen from the central station and Chr. Fredriks sq. The opera catches the attention with a falling which frames the eastern edge of the view of the fjord and its islands.
The building connects city and fjord, urbanity and landscape. To the East, the “factory” is articulated and varied. One can see the activities within the building: Ballet reheasal rooms at the upper levels, workshops at street level. The future connection to a living and animated new part of town will give a greater sense of urbanity.
Collaboration with artists
For Snøhetta, close collaboration with artists has always been an important part of building projects. As early as the competition stage, artist were invited in as collaborators, and the wished to continue this from the beginning of the design phase. Snøhetta have tried to avoid having artist apply “decoration” to the architecture, prefering to allow for an open dialogue between artists, artisans and professionals with various approaches to important building elements. With the operahouse, the architect intended that both the large marble clad roofscape and the aluminium clad facades should be approached as collaborative endeavours.
An early collaboration was established for the sone roof with artists: Kristian Blystad, Kalle Grude og Jorunn Sannes. One year later, in accordance with the guidelines for state funding building projects, a committee for integrated artwork was established. This committee engaged the artists Astrid Løvaas og Kirsten Wagle to collaborate on the design of the metal cladding elements.
Choice of materials
The materials, with their specific weight, colour, texture and temperature, have been vital to the design of the building. Snøhettas architecture is narative. It is the materials which form the defining elements of the spaces. It is the meeting of the materials which articulates the architecture through varied detail and precision.
In the operahouse, three main materials were specified as early as the competition entry: White stone for the “carpet”, timber for the “wave wall”, and metal for the “factory”. During the continued work on the project, a fourth material, glass, which allows for the exposure of the underside of the “carpet”, has been given specific attention.
Created by: Anna Varakli
Voice transcription: Vanesa Souli
Direction: Maria Anagnostou
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