An old, run-down wooden house built the same year as Norway’s Parliament, in 1866, has been standing for months in front of the national assembly building in Oslo. It was moved there as part of an art project in connection with the two buildings’ 150th anniversaries, and now the old house has won a new lease on life.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that artist Marianne Heske’s House of Commons will be restored and moved back to Hobøl, the rural community southeast of Oslo where she first spotted the house several years ago.
“Hobøl officials have moved heaven and earth to get (the house) back,” Heske confirmed to Aftenposten on Sunday. The house had been abandoned and neglected for years, and she’s sure it would have been torn down if she hadn’t seized on its symbolic depiction of the common life in Norway over the past 150 years.
Her artistic interest in the house, in which people lived until 1964, saved it from the wrecker’s ball. She found out that its ownership had fallen to the state highway department, which planned to tear it down to make way for a new highway project in the area. She convinced the state to dismantle and move the house instead, and officials inside the Parliament agreed to her idea of setting it up just outside as an art project to remind lawmakers of the common people they serve.
The house, which has been open to the public since last fall, also took center stage in the midst of a massive public debate over the influx of refugees into Norway, and where and how they can be housed. Heske further reminded politicians that there are many more abandoned old houses like the one she saved, and they can serve a purpose.
“Everyone is supposed to live so fancy now, while in Sweden old houses like this are collector’s items,” Heske said. “Here there’s a tendency to tear things down.”
She’s pleased her art project has attracted so much interest, and so many visitors. “It’s been a magical project,” Heske told Aftenposten. “”There are lots of fine houses falling down out there. For me as an artist, it’s good to wake people up to that.”