New Oslo rising, views from the Oslo Opera House

This was the shining building on the hill, the building that symbolised Oslo marching into the 21st Century. The Oslo Opera House sits at the banks of the Oslofjord like an iceberg in the ocean, its white marbled walls stand out from the surroundings simply because it is of such a different colour to the rest of the city.

In addition, these same white marbled tiles reflect the brilliance of the sun in the summer making the whole operahouse light up the surroundings.

What I liked about the space was that it wasn’t just a building that you could look and marvel at, but also one that you could interact with. The roof is designed to allow individuals to walk up and take in the view of the oslofjord and the emerging city behind it.

The interior of the is dominated by a wooden perimeter walkway that leads into the main auditorium.

The Operahouse is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet Company, the only opera and ballet organisation in the whole country.

The district immediately behind the Opera house, known as the Bjørvika district was once an industrial slum area that has since been reworked into a collection of multi-purpose high rise constructions, known as the Barcode Project.

The first phase of the project was unveiled in 2016 and new construction is still on going. This is a different view of a Scandanavian city (think of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenburg for example) and has predictably drawn a large amount of controversy and debate in Norway.

What is interesting is that the debate is not centred on the concept of redeveloping the area but the form and style in which such redevelopment takes place. Asurvey by the largest evening newspaper in Norway, Aftenposten in 2007 when the project was first mooted showed that 71 % of Oslo opposed the project.

The concerns regarding the project were that the style of the building went against the open and low rise nature of what Oslo was. The high rise buildings create a barrier between the city and the fjords and would reshape and destroy the existing character of the city. Another argument was that because it does not have a consistent structure, its very design goes against the orderly structure of the city and thereby disfigures the city. It’s not to say that there aren’t supporters of the project, especially because this is a rare opportunity to reshape the urban landscape of the city.

What is certain is that the debate did not lead to the project being scrapped, the buildings were completed in 2016 and companies have already moved in with a second phase of constructions underway. This is perhaps the new version of the Oslo Tiger, and aggressively growing Scandanavian city that could become an even more important Northern European city in the future.

What do I mean a more important city?

Now cities in the world have different levels of relevance to the world economy. Two, namely London and New York are vital and integral to the world functional of the world economy and are considered Alpha ++ Cities – truly global cities. The list then goes down Alpha, Alpha minus, Beta plus etc… according to the integration of the city to the global economy. The more important a city is, the more devastating its effects on the world when something happens there. For example, London’s Heathrow Airport is one of the most important hub airports in the world, if travel delays happen in London, the net effect will be felt as far as Cape Town, Casablanca, Caracas, Chicago and Canberra. On the other hand, a travel delay in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport may not lead to as devastating outcomes.

Oslo is current considered a Beta plus city, which is defined as “cities that link moderate economic regions into the world economy “. The more business friendly a city is, the higher the chance that it becomes a place for more business to take place. Obviously, that’s not the only point of a city, there are many elements to the value of a city, and its economic worth is merely one measure of a city.

What is clear though is that there is a new Oslo arising, so climb up the Opera and watch the performance unfold.


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