Oslo – from 19th century into the future

Oslo as a settlement is quite old, with over 950 years of history to celebrate.  However, as a capital city it is relatively new.  Though Norway did not become fully independent until 1905, from 1814 onwards the country has had its own constitution and government. And it was during the 19th century that nearly all the most important civic buildings in the city were designed and built.  Most of these buildings were designed in variations of the neo-classical stye common to most European cities of that period. The earliest was the Royal Palace, which was built as the official residence of the King of Sweden, who was also the king of Norway. It was started in the 1820s, but not finished until 1849. Delays in building completion is not a Scottish prerogative! It is now, since 1905, the residence of the Kings and Queens of Norway and a very fine and relatively unostentatious palace it is too.P1060459The university of Oslo dates back to 1811, just before the break with Denmark. In 1852 the university moved to brand new premises in the centre of the city, not far from the Royal Palace. Below you can see the very austere and very imposing neo-clasical façade of the building.P1060477Before the new university building was completed, Oslo got a new national gallery, again close by the Royal Palace.  This is now mainly famous for housing some of Edvard Munch’s most celebrated works, including The Scream. This building has a more joyous look about it, no doubt due to the lovely rosy-red bricks with which it was built.P1060452A bit further away from the Royal Palace is the Norwegian Parliament buidling. This was another building that took a long time to get finished – it opened in 1866.  It was well worth the wait, as you can see here, with a view of the unusual semi-circular front built in pale yellow brick. P1060483Another iconic Oslo building was opened to the public at the very end of the 19th century – the National Theatre, which opened in 1899. Situated between the Parliament and the Royal Palace, this is wonderfully complex building with interesting façades on all sides. The most impressive, though is probably this one, the main entrance. Though built at the end of the century, we are back into heavy neo-classical features with a vengeance.P1060479Just to prove that not every civic building in Oslo dates from the 19th century here is a view from the sea of the rather grand and very massive city hall, with its own twin towers. This was another Oslo building which took a long time to complete, though in this case there was a good reason – the German occupation during the second world war. The new city hall finally opened in 1950 and is fine example of modernist functionalism, perhaps a tad on the severe side though.P1060828A funny thing about Oslo is that architecturally, it seems to have rushed through the 20th century to embrace the future with an enviable gusto. The new opera house is probably the most iconic of these futuristic buildings. It is certainly very, very impressive. Built to look a bit like an iceberg, it rises spectacularly at the head of the fjord. The building is clad in granite, Italian marble and aluminium, all in white. Here is a view from the ground.P1060840The area by the opera house was a former industrial area, which is now scheduled for redevelopment into an upmarket business and cultural centre. Beside the opera house you can see the first fruits of this massive building project. Various skycrapers, or what passes for skycrapers in Oslo already adorn this part of the city.  All are embellished with sculptural patterns on their façades.P1060811 Futuristic designs are also the rage for more humble blocks of flats in another waterside development at the other end of the fjord. Lots of glass, while metal tubes provide the embellishments.P1060528I end this brief tour of modern Oslo with one of the city’s most famous sights – the Holmenkollen ski jump. There has been ski jumping on the hills of Oslo for over a century or more and the main jumping tower was built at Holmenkollen. The old complex was demolished and a new structure was built using steel and concrete. The jump tower is some 60 metres high and the whole complex is most impressive. You also get wonderful views of Oslo fjord. Below are two photos of the new ski jump which only opened in 2011. The first is the jump tower itself which juts out into the air and the second is a view of the tower and landing area from the other side of the complex.P1060885IMG_0290

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