by Terri Peters
The new Oslo Opera House is a monumental architectural statement for Norway, providing a glamorous new home for the National Opera and Ballet and a striking public plaza overlooking the Oslofjord.
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Instantly shedding opera's snooty, high-art image, the new building by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta slopes down from the roof to the water's edge. The gleaming-white marble threshold between land and water welcomes hundreds of people on a sunny day.
From the outset, the integration of art and architecture was a key feature of the project. Snøhetta conceived of the marble roofscape and metal cladding as integrated artworks: part of the building fabric, to be approached as collaborations.
As a result, the immense roof is simply detailed, designed not to be encumbered by the kind of railings and signage that so often appear as afterthoughts on public builds. Numerous elements — from the floor pattern to drainpipes and handrails — were designed in collaboration with local artists Jorunn Sannes, Kalle Grude, and Kristian Blystad.
The minimal, stepped, sloping plaza looks irresistibly like an unusually pristine skateboarding park, with hand-cut Carrara marble covering more than 19,000 square meters (205,000 square feet). Use of the space by locals and tourists alike already suggests the broad appeal of the design.
Local Talent, National Landmark
Snøhetta won the international design competition for the opera house in 2000, an extraordinary win for a firm so small and relatively unproven at the time.
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