The city of Oslo
Oslo is the capital of Norway, also the biggest urban agglomeration and the biggest port. Internationally is well known for its life quality and for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. Although is not one of the main international finance or commerce centers it plays a leading role in the Norwegian economy and for the regional development.
The city has a population of around 600 000 inhabitants and the metropolitan area of near one million. In the last decades is has experienced a constant population grow, becoming one of the most attractive cities for the emigrants, particularly since 2008 when the international finance crisis began.
Oslo was established around 1000 years ago, by the king Harald III. Three hundred years later was pronounced capital city, but shortly after would lose this status because of the union with Denmark, when the capital was Copenhagen.
In 1624 a great fire took place, destroying a reasonable part of the urban tissue that was mostly built out of wood. The King Christian IV would refound the city near the Akershus fortress to the west of the old medieval core. The new city was built following a rational organization of the streets, and an orthogonal urban structure that we still see today. After the city was rebuilt it changed its name to Christiania, to honor the king; later on it would evolve to Kristiania. Only in 1814 would recover its Capital city status, when the union with Denmark ended and it was under the influence of the Swedish kingdom. In 1925 the city would recover its original name, Oslo, as we know it today.
The port of Oslo
The port has been an important element of the city since it started to play an relevant role in international commerce, especially for wood and ship building, in the XVIIIth century. The Norwegian economy is deeply connected with the sea, in this country we find several shipping companies that together control 7% of the global fleet. Also in the cruise market is a world player, not just as destination, but also because one of the leading companies, Royal Caribbean, was created in Norway.
Nowadays the Oslo port now longer hosts major shipyards and the main activity is the container handling and passengers transportation. Last year the port handled 5,7 mill tons and 6 mill travellers.
Since the 1970´s we have assisted to an evolution in the port territory, from being spread along the waterfront to been centralized in the Sydhavna new Terminal, a change that was part of the Fjord City plan.
The port is expected to play a key role in the future development of the country and the region since the central government, in the same direction that the UE, has established the intention of potentiating the sea transport over the road, in order to reduce the environmental impact.
The first waterfront regeneration project in Oslo took place in the Aker Brygge, an old shipyard near the city hall. The area used to be known for the Aker Mekaniske Verksted AS, a private shipyard founded in mid XIXth Century and for decades was one of the main industrial complexes in Oslo´s waterfront.
The naval industry was very strong in Norway, particularly in Oslo. During the first half of the XXth Century the industry evolved from cargo ships to oil platforms during the 1960´s, at the same time that Norway began to exploit its oil resources. During the 1970´s the crisis caused by international competition hit the sector and the Aker Company decided to shut down the shipyards in Aker Brygge.
In 1982 the industries officially were closed and an international urban planning competition was held for the waterfront revitalization project. This competition, won by Niels Torp, included a vision for the entire waterfront but into more detail the area to be developed most immediately. The project was built during the following decade, and in the mid 1990´s the city had won a new access to the waterfront. The program of the plan was mixed use, since it included office space, shopping areas, housing units and a recreational marina. This new part of the city has been totally integrated in the urban daily life and last year was visited by 12 million persons.
Fjord City project
After the Aker Brygge project we can see a time gap in which Oslo´s waterfront remain unaltered until 2008 when the Fjord City plan was approved by the municipal council. This new waterfront master plan was based in some of the concepts seen in the Aker Brygge competition, particularly the idea of understanding the waterfront as whole, and acknowledging its importance for the city. As it happens in other waterfront regeneration projects, the Fjord City plan had a triggering element for its initial motivation. In this case it was a national survey regarding the living condition in Norway. This research concluded that the people with the worst conditions were right in the center of the capital, where the city was first founded. After this shocking discovery the central government granted funds for restarting the regeneration plans for Bjørvika in the east part of the waterfront. Eventually the City was forced to make a strategic decision regarding its waterfront. In the year 2000 the city council reached the decision that the better option for the future of the city was to choose for “Fjord city alternative”, in opposition to the “Port City option”. This game changing decision did not meant that the port would be fully expelled far outside the city, but concentrated gradually in the Sydhavna peninsula, in the outskirts of the urban core.
One of the key decision was the creation of a tunnel for the burial of the E18 highway, which would allow a direct contact with the waterfront in the area where one of the landmark buildings has been developed, the Oslo Opera.
The plan should be developed until 2030, and includes several city areas, two mill. Square meters, 9000 housing units and 45 000 workplaces. The project is divided into three main sections and different several subsections. Each area has specific characteristic regarding construction heights, density and materiality, but is clear the focus putted in new cultural landmarks, and mixed use. Besides the new Opera other major facilities have been built, like the Astrup Fearnly Museum of Modern Art, or will be in the near future, like the Munch Museum, the National Gallery and the Deichman Library.
Fjord City is so far moving at good speed, and until the moment we can see significant evolution in all sections. The port is already functioning in Sydhavna, the Bar Code project in Bjørvika is almost concluded, other parts in this area are also under development, Tjuvholmen, the continuation of Aker Brygge, is also done and already part of the city activities, and finally the Sørenga Pier is well under way in its transformation into a new living area.
In the future we shall see the development of the Filipstad area, one of the major developments, where we still find different working industries and warehouses. Also during the next decades the final stages of the Bjørvika area will be built, including the Munch Museum and several housing buildings. Between Bjørvika and Aker Brygge, in Vippetangen we will see also several changes. Finally furthermore we will assist to the conclusion of the plan towards the south, in the direction of the new terminal, a very important part, since is where the new urban development will contact the industrial port.
The Fjord City project will be analyzed into greater detail in the next post. We will be able to meet with Mr. Stein Kølsto who was in charge of the Fjord city plan in the municipal planning authority and Ms. Kathrin Pedersen, from the Oslo Port Authority, who is leading the department of urban development. In the next post we shall see how is the relation between the port and the city, and the negotiation process developed in order to meet this compromise that turned out to be beneficiary for both, the port and the city.