Gone are all the visions of fancy highrises, glass and mirror buildings and rooftop promenades: Norway’s new government headquarters in the heart of Oslo now looks most likely to feature what state planners are calling “historic continuity” and climate-friendly, economical new offices for reassembled ministries.
Statsbygg, the state agency in charge of state-owned properties, unveiled drawings on Tuesday of how it wants the new complex, called Regjeringskvartalet (literally, “the government quarters”), to look. The plans now call for the iconic building known as Høyblokka, which housed the Office of the Prime Minister and the Justice Ministry before it was bombed by a right-wing extremist four years ago, to remain the tallest in the complex.
Høyblokka will also continue to have open space in front of it, in the form of a new park, while new, slightly lower buildings will be constructed behind and alongside it, to replace the other ministries damaged or destroyed in the bombing. A park will also cover the area between the complex and the current public library, and will contain a memorial to the victims of the bombing on July 22, 2011.
Statsbygg’s managing director, Harald Nikolaisen, stressed that the plans merely represent Statsbygg’s own “professional recommendation” to the government ministers in charge. After four years of design competition, public input and debate, however, it’s likely the plan will be adopted in the course of next year. “I don’t think there will be much more debate on this,” said state broadcaster NRK’s commentator Agnes Moxnes, noting that the new plan addresses earlier criticism and incorporates much of what a majority seemed to agree upon.
The “historic continuity” is based on how the complex will resemble an improved version of the complex that had evolved over the years before it was bombed. There’s been broad consensus to reassemble the government ministries in the same area, to make meetings and interaction more efficient than it is at present with the ministries scattered all over town since their forced relocations four years ago.
The complex’ main entry from the street called Akersgata will also reinforce the important connection between the government complex and the Parliament, located just two blocks away. The street will be closed to private traffic but open for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists. Most importantly, Høyblokka will remain as a symbol of government continuity and nothing will overshadow it.
“We didn’t want any spectacular highrises, but we’re certain there will be room for some exciting architecture when we get to that phase,” Nikolaisen said. “Høyblokka will get the place it deserves and it will continue to be the highest building in the new government complex.”
Statbygg’s recommendations will now be sent to the ministry in charge of the project (Kommunal- og moderniseringsdepartementet), with a new area plan up for hearing in May.