“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” the mayor of Tønsberg, Per Martin Aamodt, reminded his political colleagues in Oslo after two hotel developers offered to build a new concert house last week. In return, they want approval for an adjacent hotel and conference center on the city’s most attractive remaining waterfront location at Filipstad.
The concert hall proposal, billed as a new home for the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, was met with widespread enthusiasm by city officials, but Aamodt told newspaper Aftenposten that a similar project in his city resulted in high lease rates for cultural events and expectations that haven’t been met. He said the kulturhus (a community hall used for cultural events) that opened in Tønsberg in 2002 is most often used as an arena for the hotel.
Some city planners in Oslo are also raising questions about the proposal from the Philharmonic’s chief executive and hotel developers Petter Stordalen and Anders Buchardt. “The location has an enormous value,” and may be worth more than NOK 10 billion, Roar Sandnes of Akershus Eiendom told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Few are surprised Stordalen and Buchardt want to stake a claim on it, but Erling Dokk Holm, an assistant professor at Oslo’s marketing college doesn’t think it’s the right location for a new concert house. He’d prefer to see a high school or residential use, to “create more life” in the area.
“This won’t be free of charge to the city,” architecture professor Karl Otto Ellefsen told DN. “There will be considerable leasing costs for the Philharmonic and the economics of this must be clarified in a solid manner.” He also cautioned against Stordalen and Buchardt being allowed to “Manhattanize” Oslo’s waterfront, or build a “colossal” structure that would be too imposing.
The project faces many hurdles, with the city, the transportation ministry, the harbour authority, the ministry of culture and the Philharmonic all having a say, along with city planners and neighbours. The proposal may come up before the city council next spring.