Public Realm in a Design Portfolio — Selected works by Snøhetta, Part Three

The last of this three part portfolio selection is a national cultural building for production and performance of art works. The building literally makes new ground by using the roof to expand a site of public ownership.

The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet
A fixture on the water’s edge of Oslo, The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet is a site located near the central station in the Bjørvika area. Architecture purposed for international culture receives visitors of the public. The narrative of a city’s life substantiates its contextual setting (itself) that becomes by means of construction, development, occupation, movement, and change. The city is a theater of movement.

urban image © Snøhetta
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, urban architectural image © Snøhetta, architect

The architectural identity of this national trove for performing arts is recognizable by its monumentally uplifting social form. The accessible roof is shaped by wide traverses and ramps. A visitor can enjoy a view while on these paths that make way to the rooftop. The diverging slopes of the roof emerge from the harbor front and serve as an open plaza, increasing the social impact of the building footprint.

photo © Gerald Zugmann, photographer
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, photo © Gerald Zugmann, photographer

Universality in a public urban space, oft dressed neutrally or in white, is a blankly nonhierarchical platform that is patterned by its visitors. That great sense of being somewhere is at once an individual captivation and a cooperative impression. Paved open urban spaces that are unmarked by decorative order are found lain into city quarters where population and place alternately delineate each other’s mutual chorography at a pedestrian scale. Snøhetta has designed architecture for culture that serves its purpose twofold. The gestural impact on the public realm is an architectural gift of cosmopolitan leisure.

photo © Gerald Zugman, photographer
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, photo © Gerald Zugmann, photographer

This architecture commemorates its own purpose as a public stage for urban liveliness and spectatorship upon an extenuated stone platform. Life’s public theater has an active reciprocity with theatrical repertoire, its production, and performance. The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet is home to its own companies and can accommodate touring productions. It also houses the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra, Opera Chorus, Opera Children’s Chorus, and Ballet School of Norway. All functions of practice, production, and performance are under one roof. Snøhetta designed the organization of these combined, interrelated spaces.

architectural drawing © Snøhetta, architect
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, architectural drawing © Snøhetta, architect

The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet is a monumental statement of social nexus, a destination where paths artistically converge. Its architecture is a scene for an engaging social landscape, covered by a cape of stone. The building increases the area of public realm and invigorates the dramatic open edge between land and sea. Compositionally, the proportions of massing and luster of materials appear to fit comfortably in the setting, becoming the site.

photo © Jens Passoth, photographer
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, photo © Jens Passoth, photographer

In this national theater by Snøhetta, there is subtle architectural expression of the stylistic mixed use of internationalism and regionalism. International style could be aesthetically interpreted as a neutral and open setting for ever-changing trends in society and individual freedom. Opera and ballet are international artforms with studied repertory. A national program for these performances fortifies a capability to engage with international culture. A national opera and ballet privilege a society with enduring access to the stage of world renown culture.

photo © Gerald Zugmann, photographer
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, photo © Gerald Zugmann, photographer

Snøhetta’s design is a site fitted for the making of performance, from beginning to end. The facility has rooms for performers to practice, and workshops to build scenery. The architectural program includes (1) main stage, (2)  second stage, (3) studio, (4) workshops, (5) rehearsal rooms for dance, song, orchestra, and chorus, (6) storage rooms, (7) changing rooms, and (8) offices. The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet is a central place for creative works to be produced and performed. The site is virtually a public factory producing an international benchmark of performing arts.

photo © Jiri Havran, photographer
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, photo © Jiri Havran, photographer

Smoothed and hewn woodwork appears throughout the interior of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Different patterns and finishes distinguish the spatial function. Wood is a material that is of human scale because of its grain and workmanship. The sensitive human response to woodwork is ardent in any style of architecture. The traditional feel of wood gives faithful cause to the hand which gently arches and folds across its fine surface. The auditorium balconies are stacked with equal emphasis, like a giant hull section on its side. When filled with the sturdy ballast of an audience, the concert hall holds the pillars of its nation’s patronage.

photo © Helene Binet, photographer
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, photo © Helene Binet, photographer

This architectural work is designed by Snøhetta, the firm that won the competition for The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, a cultural building with an urban position on the waterfront. The public scope of this building exceeds expectations of a brief’s purpose by wrapping the site with a public access priority.

 

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Written by CPG

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CREDIT
Snøhetta, architect. The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Statsbygg, sponsor. Norwegian government, financier. Reinersten Engineering, Ingenior Per Rasmussen, and Erichsen & Horgen, structural engineers. Norges Geortekniske Institut, geotechnical consultants. Scandiaconsult, foundations and building contractor. Johns J Syltern, phase I site preparation. Veidekke Entreprnor, phase II site preparation. Theatre Projects Consultants (UK), theatre consultant. Brekke Strand Arup, acoustics. Skandinaviska Glassystem, glazing. Bosch Rexroth, hydraulics/pneumatics. Carrara quarry, marble. Frapont, carpentry and woodwork. Oslo, NO, c. 2008.
Gerald Zugmann, photographer
Jens Passoth, photographer
Jiri Havran, photographer
Helene Binet, photographer
SOURCES
https://operaen.no/en/about-us-oslo-operahouse/about-the-oslo-opera-house. Accessed July 3, 2019
http://www.nanocathedral.eu/index.php/opera-house. Accessed October 28, 2019
https://www.grind.no/en/livelihood-and-craftsmanship/wooden-boat. Accessed October 28, 2019
https://www.dezeen.com/2008/04/09/opera-house-oslo-by-snohetta-2. Accessed October 28, 2019

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