Oslo's new home for the Norwegian Opera & Ballet
The government wished that the operahouse should be a monumental building which would mark Norway as a cultural nation as well as highlighting the social and cultural importance of The Norwegian Opera & Ballet. The building should be a landmark within architecture, construction, use of materials and technical solutions.
The Bjørvika peninsula is part of a harbour city, which is historically the meeting point with the rest of the world.. The dividing line between the ground ’here’ and the water ‘there’is both a real and a symbolic threshold. This threshold is realised as a large wall on the line of the meeting between land and sea, Norway and the world, art and everyday life. This is the threshold where the public meet the art.
A detailed brief was developed as a basis for the competition. Snøhetta proposed that the production facitities of the operahouse should be realised as a self contained, rationally planned ‘factory’. This factory should be both functional and flexible during the planning phase as well as in later use. This flexibility has proved to be very important during the planning phase: a number of rooms and room groups have been adjusted in collaboration with the end user. These changes have improved the buildings functionality without affecting the architecture.
One idea stood out as a legitimation of monumentality: The concept of togetherness, joint ownership, easy and open access for all. To achieve a monumentality based on these notions we wished to make the opera accessible in the widest possible sense, by laying out a ‘carpet’ of horizontal and sloping surfaces on top of the building. This carpet has been given an articulated form, related to the cityscape. Monumentality is achieved through horizontal extension and not verticality. The building connects city and fjord, urbanity and landscape.
The materials, with their specific weight, colour, texture and temperature, have been vital to the design of the building. Snøhettas architecture is narative. It is the materials which form the defining elements of the spaces. It is the meeting of the materials which articulates the architecture through varied detail and precision.