Oslo Opera House

So after a quite chaotic last month, I found myself in beautiful Oslo for the first leg of my month long hoorah traveling some parts of Europe I haven’t seen yet. Maybe it’s the recovery from sleep deprivation, stress, or lack of sun, but Oslo is magic. The mixture of urban and wilderness creates beautiful viewpoints along the waterfront which you are always drawn to regardless of the wind level.

One of the most well known buildings in Oslo is the Opera House by the firm Snøhetta. It is worth coming to Oslo to see this building. The shifted planes of the mineral park/roof allow for a dynamic composition public interaction. Built into the water, it is exposed to the elements separating you from the city proper and gluing you to these irregular slanted forms. To me the wow factor of this building is all due to the visual folding of circulation that connects you on shifted vertical axes. When sunken into the main lobby space you are connected with the raising platforms flanking each side, and perplexed by the presence of people in the glass curtain walls that connect you straight to the sky. Conversely from the base, while you are grounded on top of tons of white marble, you feel the tension of suspension while looking down into the lobby. Additionally, small ant like people pop out above the top of this mass giving scale to the size of this massive structure.

In all I find this building extremely successful. Not just in its essence of a giant jungle gym inviting all of Oslo to create their own community, but also as a functioning factory. The program of this building is quite immense and it’s done so effortlessly with clearly defined public and private zones. There are buffers of separation, and each side takes on its own personality. We took the tour which I highly recommend since it gives you access to just about everything, including the costume and set design studios. I appreciate Snøhetta’s approach allowing a simple programmatic organization given the size and allowing the more regulated programs to become more understated and detail oriented.

There are some interesting decisions that were made regarding the material compositions and geometric forms that I am not sure that I would have come to myself because of the multiplicity of the language that it presents, but I am not convinced that it is necessarily a negative of the project. So often we are taught in design school to have a clear and concise language. Too much mixing of forms of materials equates to an over zealous imagination and inability to edit. The Opera House shows how this method of thought is essentially an easy way for architecture professors to shy away from teaching complex mixture and patterning that can be successful if done properly. While I am of course a proponent of the clear language that Peter Zumthor’s thermal baths transmit, why not enjoy the opposite end of the spectrum? I find merit in both, and that is the beauty of the gargantuan language of architecture; it is endless.

Enough of my tangents, here are some pictures of the building. Enjoy!

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