The US Embassy in Oslo could be turned into a police station when the American diplomats move out in a couple of years. A recent police report on growing crime in Norway’s capital floated the idea, but the city’s preservation agency doesn’t think it’s a good one.
The current US Embassy is located close to the heart of the city, which is also the dark heart of increasingly violent crime, especially at night and during weekends. A strategy document from Oslo’s police authority points to the embassy as one of several suitable locactions for a new “City Station” that would focus police efforts in the area and relieve other downtown police units, newspaper Aftenposten reported on Wednesday.
Other police stations like Grønland, Sentrum and Majorstuen already have plenty to do in their respective districts, battling a rapidly growing wave of assaults and other crimes. A new City station “must have a large operational force at times when it is needed the most, which means at night during weekends,” says the document obtained by Aftenposten.
The US Embassy is scheduled to move in 2015, after years of controversy and planning, to a new and more secure compound at Huseby northwest of downtown construction started last year. There has, however, been little talk about the future use of its soon-to-be-vacated building, which was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and opened in 1959. The triangular structure is so well-known in Oslo that many locals simply refer to it as ambassaden (“the embassy”).
Oslo’s preservation agency, Byantikvaren, is not impressed by the proposal to turn the building into a police station. Byantikvaren and others are already unhappy with the high fences and other security measures which have been put up around the US Embassy in recent years. The preservationists would like the building to house activities that do not require any security at all, so that the fences and barriers can finally be removed.
“Those safety measures do nothing to beautify the building,” byantikvar Janne Wilberg told Aftenposten, adding that a future police station probably wouldn’t beautify it either.
She described the US Embassy as a modern and future-oriented building, despite its age, with considerable architectural qualities.
“It’s interesting how the Americans wanted to make themselves visible when they built this. It signals that they meant business, but they also wanted cultural exhchange,” Wilberg said, pointing out that it originally was built as a cultural centre in addition to its use as an embassy.
“It’s natural to think of it as an office building in the future,” she said, but bringing in players from the cultural sphere would be “incredibly exciting.”
Byantikvaren wants the building to be formally preserved, but according to Aftenposten, that won’t happen until the US authorites sell the land, which they currently own.
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