Bombed buildings’ fate still unclear

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Norway’s government leaders haven’t been able to agree on what should be done with their offices that were bombed and badly damaged in last summer’s terrorist attack on government headquarters in Oslo. Now they’re seeking input from the public on several proposed alternatives.

Debate will continue over whether to tear down the currently wrapped-up government high-rise, or preserve it. PHOTO: Views and News

Top officials of the two small parties making up the three-party government coalition, the Socialist Left (SV) and the Center Party (Sp), have expressed a desire to preserve the high-rise centerpiece of the downtown complex called høyblokken. It housed the Office of the Prime Minister and the Justice Ministry, but now stands vacant, under wraps and in need of massive repair.

Erik Solheim of SV, who also serves as the government minister in charge of the environment and foreign aid, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) earlier this week that he wants to prevent the high-rise from being torn down. Solheim called it “an incredibly important part of Norwegian cultural history” and a symbol of Norway’s rebuilding efforts after World War II. He likened it to the United Nations building in New York and said it was “part of the welfare state’s architecture,” complete with drawings by Picasso.

Other government officials dread returning to work in the building and hope it will be razed and replaced with a more modern headquarters. There’s even a proposal to retain one wall of the high-rise, as a sort of monument, but tear down the rest of the building and construct a new complex.

Internal disagreement, but ministries will ‘stay together’
Officials within the dominant Labour Party, which was the main target of the terrorist’s attacks on July 22, can’t agree among themselves either, another reason why no decision has been made despite earlier announcements that one would come in January. Rigmor Aasrud, the Labour minister in charge of the project, is now throwing the debate open to the public.

On Thursday she announced establishment of a blog (external link, in Norwegian) where “ordinary folks” can write what they think should become of the government complex in downtown Oslo. “A new government complex affects us all,” Aasrud told reporters. She presented three main alternatives: Retain major portions of the existing complex and repair and rebuild them as they were, tear down the high-rise and its surrounding buildings and build an entirely new complex, or some combination of the two.

The government parties have agreed that government offices should remain gathered at a central, downtown location. There earlier were proposals to spread the ministries around town, for security purposes.

Decision due in 2013
The workplaces of as many as 1,600 government employees were destroyed in the bombing. Technical evaluations have revealed, though, that the damage wasn’t so bad that the buildings must be torn down.

Aasrud said a final decision will be made next year. Construction will then take many more years. Government ministries, meanwhile, continue to operate from temporary quarters around Oslo that likely will wind up as relatively long-term locations.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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