Government high-rise may be razed

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The high-rise centerpiece of Norway’s bombed-out government headquarters may be torn down even if it’s found to be structurally sound, a government minister has confirmed. Security issues, costs and the concerns of those who had offices in the building will all play a role in the final decision.

The high-rise in the center of Norway's bomb-damaged government complex may be torn down, even if it can be repaired. PHOTO: Views and News

Rigmor Aasrud, the government minister from the Labour Party in charge of state administration, is leading the clean-up and rebuilding projects necessary after a young Norwegian terrorist bombed the government complex and then gunned down scores of people at a Labour Party summer camp on July 22. Aasrud has already said that many factors will be taken into consideration when the government decides whether to repair and return to damaged buildings, or tear them down and build anew.

After several media reports in recent weeks, in which government workers and even some top officials have said they dread moving back into the high-rise, Aasrud confirmed to newspaper Aftenposten on Thursday that their concerns will be taken into consideration as well.

She said the option of tearing down the high-rise, which housed the Office of the Prime Minister and the Justice Ministry, must be held open. “And we must be open to tearing it down even if (engineering) reports conclude that it’s in good enough shape to be rehabilitated,” she told Aftenposten. “Now we have the opportunity to think along new lines.”

It may no longer be a good idea to assemble most of the key government ministries in the same area, for security reasons. Aasrud also noted that the high-rise “is 50 years old and full of asbestos.” That’s already requiring clean-up efforts that include specially vacuuming every single page of paper and item recovered in the building, to remove asbestos before they’re archived.

It’s the discomfort expressed by many of the roughly 300 people who worked in the building, though, that also concerns Aasrud. One top Justice Ministry official told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) earlier this week that the thought of moving back into the high-rise leaves him feeling physically unwell. The ministry lost several colleagues, killed in the bombing, and offices were destroyed, and he’s not keen on working there again.

Others, however, feel the government must preserve the building for historical reasons, and that tearing it down would gratify the right-wing terrorist who attacked Norway’s left-center government.

“I have great respect for both these feelings, and they will be a major part of our decision,” Aasrud said. “It’s also necessary to have a comprehensive evaluation of security, repair possibilities and whether we should build something newer that would better serve our needs.”

The clean-up operations and structural evaluations will be completed before Christmas, Aasrud said, with a decision expected shortly thereafter. Rebuilding efforts are expected to take several years.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund