Overriding another sudden outburst of opposition, Oslo’s new city government has declared that it will move forward with construction of a new high-rise Munch Museum on the city’s eastern waterfront as planned. A last-ditch effort to expand the existing Munch Museum at Tøyen instead has been rejected.
“Now we’re counting on the museum opening at Bjørvika in 2020 as planned,” city government leader Raymond Johansen told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend.
After yet another review of all Munch Museum alternatives, Johansen’s Labour Party-led government coalition finally made a decision. The new high-rise museum called “Lambda” is to be built at a cost not to exceed NOK 2.7 billion (USD 314 million at current exchange rates).
City officials were spooked by huge cost overruns and leakage problems at the site of another nearby waterfront project, construction of the new city library. They launched another cost assessment and gave it the green light, and now have decided to do the same with the new Munch Museum.
“We’re managing the taxpayers’ money, and have been clear about the need to go through the costs of all large investment projects,” Johansen told Aftenposten, defending the review decision that sparked criticism and uncertainty over whether the new Munch Museum would ever be built.
“Our conclusion is that the budget framework of NOK 2.7 billion is firm,” Johansen said.
He also could point out that halting the waterfront project and expanding or building a new museum at the existing museum’s site at Tøyen instead would be just as expensive for the city. That’s because a lot has already been invested in the waterfront site, and giving it up would also mean giving up a state contribution of NOK 605 million earmarked for the waterfront site, not for Tøyen.
Concerns remain about the new museum’s operating costs, already predicted to be double those at Tøyen. Johansen thinks they can be reduced, while the new museum will also earn more from ticket sales, more sponsors and more traffic. “The new Munch Museum will have considerable revenues through sponsors and sales,” said Johansen, who won reluctant support from his new government partner, the Greens Party.
“We are in general still worried about the high debt level for the city,” Harald Nissen of the Greens told Aftenposten. “That’s why we wanted a cheaper alternative. We are satisfied that we now have a guarantee that the budget won’t be overrun and that operating costs will be brought down.”