National Theater’s rehab costs rise

Bookmark and Share

It may cost Norwegian taxpayers nearly NOK 700 million or more to rehabilitate the country’s 112-year-old National Theater in Oslo. Debate is already underway, but some politicians even from the conservative parties warn this is not the time to worry about cutting costs.

Norway's National Theater is in dire need of major, and costly, rehabilitation. PHOTO: Views and News

“This is one of our most central cultural buildings, which means that rehabilitation must be carried out in the best possible way,” Olemic Thommessen, cultural political spokesman for the Conservative Party told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. “The National Theater must be fixed up.”

The theater underwent renovation in the early 1990s but now it needs much more extensive repairs and rehabilitation. The facade, for example, is in such poor condition that last winter, wide areas around the building had to be cordoned off because some of the building’s rich ornamentation was crumbling and falling to the ground. It threatened to hit passersby on the head.

The National Theater is a state-owned building and Norway’s left-center Labour-led government has spent many months reportedly examining the costs of renovation, calling for a thorough evaluation of needs and projected costs before work begins. Opposition politicians in the Norwegian Parliament from the conservative parties, usually more concerned about government spending than the left-wing parties, seem united in pushing a major renovation through more quickly.

Ib Thomsen of the Progress Party, for example, told Aftenposten there is “no alternative” to a full rehabilitation, which Aftenposten has reported is now estimated to cost between NOK 450 million and NOK 675 million and force closure of the National Theater for as long as two years. Many want the work to be done before the country’s bicentennial celebrations of Norway’s constitution in 2014.

“If there’s a need to rehabilitate the building that means so much, both for Oslo and for Norway as a country, it must be done,” Thomsen said.

They all point to poor maintenance of the building during recent years and don’t want the Ministry of Culture, now led by Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labour Party, to “get out the sparekniv (literally ‘cutting knife’)” in this instance.

Anne Enger, a former government minister and leader of the Center Party who now leads the board of the National Theater, has made it clear that restoration of the National Theater must begin as quickly as possible. Gunn Karin Gjul of the Labour Party, who leads the parliamentary committee dealing with cultural issues, still thinks full review of maintenance procedures is important.

The National Theater, which opened in 1899 and played a symbolic role in Norway’s drive for sovereignty and dissolution of its union with Sweden at the time, suffers from moisture damage, a crumbling facade, wear and tear, and outdated technical and electrical systems. Repair costs are estimated to run at least NOK 37,000 per square meter.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Join our Readers’ Forum or comment below.

To support our news service, please click the “Donate” button now.