Norwegian National Opera & Ballett - Den Norske Opera & Ballett, Oslo

Date Built
Completed 2008
Kirsten Flagstads pl. Oslo
This huge building on the shores of Oslo Fjord contains three theatres, a host of reheasal rooms and a virtual factory creating costumes, props and scenery.  It looks out over the fjord but the back that it shows to the city is swathed in panoramic windows allowing passers-by to see the work going on backstage to create the performances.

The building's architects say that its, "...low slung form became a link within the city rather than a divisive sculptural expression. Its accessible roof and broad, open public lobbies make the building a social monument rather than a sculptural one."

This gleaming white building resembles an iceberg that has gone aground on the shores of the fjord or a space-age submarine rising up from the water. 

One of the unique features of the building is the vast sloping public area that allows visitors to wander up onto the roof and provides a plaza for outdoor activities.  The designers envisaged that this space would be accessible in all seasons although in winter, in addition to the somewhat precipitous slope, visitors have to navigate snow banks and ice that forms along the waterfront.

Inside walls and staircases are wrapped with oak .....

.....and in places with a perforated cladding designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson.

The cladding "... allows the visitor`s perception of the lobby areas to change over time and with movement around the structures. A soft light changes color while the diamond-like filagree shows differing characteristics of scale and hue when passing alongside the walls."

"The building still finds an audience with public who are not opera, ballet or orchestra fans. The cafes and gift shop, with their access to the waterfront, are destinations which offer opportunities to generate revenue for the institution while providing a general public amenity. Care was taken with the design of these components so that they are seamlessly integrated into the overall character of the building’s bold design."

The cladding on the building's fly-tower was created in collaboration with Astrid Løvaas and Kirsten Wagle. 

An essay by Jarle Stromodden on the lovaas-wagle website says of this feature that, " ....Løvaas & Wagle’s contribution to the exterior of the opera house prompts associations on many levels: Braille, textiles, tactile qualities, geomtry, digitalisation, repetition, and minimalism – to mention just a few.  First in the above list is Braille, and not just because that’s where it belongs alphabetically. Løvaas & Wagle’s embossed aluminium panels resemble text fragments written in Braille. The similarity is only superficial, yet there is still a point of contact between the artist’s experience with textiles and the tactile premises of the writing system used by the blind. Just as Braille presupposes touch, the facade of the opera house invites us to touch it.

Access to the opera house entrance is via this marble-clad bridge.