Looking beyond the destruction

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PHOTO FEATURE: Two years after a bomber attacked Norway’s government complex in Oslo, Norwegians could finally see for themselves how the buildings held up. State officials hosted an unusual “open house” that resulted in a weekend of reflection for many over the events of July 22, 2011, and over options for rebuilding.

  1. Visitors on the roof of the damaged ministries for trade and oil emerged from the gutted structure to get a unique view of adjacent buildings that were damaged as well. At left, the high-rise that housed the Office of the Prime Minister and Justice Ministry, and at center, the area where a newly rebuilt government complex might expand.
  2. Visitors entered the high-rise known as "Høyblokken" at the very spot where the terrorist parked his van that was loaded with his home-made bomb on July 22, 2011. Interest was so high that lines were long to get in and many had to be turned away.
  3. The first stop was the former canteen on the ground floor of "Høyblokken." Hundreds of government employees used to eat lunch here, but it was mostly empty when the bomb went off shortly before 3:30pm.
  4. Visitors were then allowed to start climbing the stairs all the way to the 17th floor at the top of the building. Here, a lower floor that once housed offices for workers in the Justice Ministry. At left, a scrawled message on a pillar after initial inspections of the building shortly after the attack.
  5. Statsbygg, the state agency in charge of state-owned real estate, hosted the unusual "open house," and posted simple signs on each floor of the building, this one next to the now-gutted elevator shafts.
  6. Visitors were allowed into the high-rise in groups of 25 every 10 minutes on both Saturday and Sunday, but many still had to be turned away. One thoughtful man from Lørenskog who had obtained an entry ticket for three persons ended up offering his two extra spots to strangers when his own friends didn't show up.
  7. Visitors were quiet and the mood sombre as they streamed through the building where eight persons were killed and scores injured. As one man took a photo of the gutted remains of another floor in the former Justice Ministry, Red Cross workers were ready to help anyone needing assistance.
  8. The high-rise centerpiece of the government complex contains unique artworks by, among others, Pablo Picasso that are integrated into the very walls of the building. They survived the bombing and will be preserved, even if the building is eventually torn down.
  9. The many windows in the government high-rise, which opened in 1958, were an important part of what's called the post-war "social democratic architecture" of the building. Each office was allotted two windows, and all were the same, in keeping with egalitarian priorities at the time.
  10. More of the artwork by Picasso and Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar on the walls of the government high-rise.
  11. Each group of visitors had its own guide from Statsbygg and a security guard. The Statsbygg employees were careful to avoid taking sides in a debate over whether the buildings should be preserved and remodeled or torn down, but confirmed they are structurally sound and can be rehabilitated.
  12. All of the stairways were safe to use, despite the lack of permanent bannisters on many.
  13. Extra reinforcement was evident on some of the staircases, but visitors were assured they were solid and could withstand the weight of the nearly 2,000 persons who climbed up and down them during the weekend.
  14. More art etched into the walls outside the first of four floors that were occupied by the Office of the Prime Minister.
  15. Some areas remained closed off, like this one in what served as the Office of the Prime Minister.
  16. Once atop the building, the views over Oslo remained intact as was most of the reinforced glass in the windows on the 17th floor, despite some cracks in this one.
  17. Damage was minimal to the top floors, which were added on to the high-rise in 1988. This is where prime ministers had his or her own office, where government ministers gathered for weekly meetings and where visiting dignitaries were received.
  18. This was one of the waiting rooms for visitors arriving for a meeting with the prime minister.
  19. Here's where visiting world leaders like US President Barack Obama walked, before the terrorist's bomb went off.
  20. The view over Oslo towards the west, as seen from a waiting room in the Office of the Prime Minister.
  21. Visitors took photos of the views they'd long seen only on television.
  22. Looking down on the boarded-up building adjacent to the high-rise that housed the education ministry.
  23. This was the highlight of the high-rise, where windows on all sides offered views down the fjord and over the city. More guides were on hand to describe its design and options for renovation.
  24. The view to the southwest from the Office of the Prime Minister: Norway's Finance Ministry with its many atriums is in the foreground, with the Supreme Court building (in the process of getting an additional floor)just behind it. The twin towers of Oslo's City Hall are at the right, with the Oslo Fjord in the background.
  25. Looking down on the adjacent roof of the damaged ministries for Trade and Oil & Energy, which featured a helicopter landing pad.
  26. Visitors on the roof of the damaged ministries across the street from the high-rise.
  27. From the roof of the adjacent and also damaged trade ministry, visitors could gaze back at the high-rise, most of which remains behind protective tarps. At right, Oslo's Trinity Church and the boarded up education ministry.
  28. The building that housed the ministries for Business & Trade and Oil & Energy was also heavily damaged and stripped after the bombing. It was much newer than the high-rise, completed in the 1990s.
  29. Inside the building that once was a hub for Norway's oil industry and business interests.
  30. Remnants of broken glass inside the damaged ministries.
  31. Peering through a hole in a wall into an interior atrium at the damaged ministry.
  32. The outlook for the bombed buildings is unclear. While some consultants have recommended tearing down the damaged ministries and constructing an entirely new government complex, others are pleading for their preservation. Government ministers, now working from leased locations around the city, may make a decision sometime late next year after the last of the consultants' reports is evaluated.

Hover your mouse over the photos for caption information. For more on the unique access to the bombed government complex, click here.

ALL PHOTOS: newsinenglish.no