Affluence vs Architecture in Norway | The Plan
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Affluence vs Architecture in Norway

Affluence vs Architecture in Norway
By Michael Webb -

Norway, like Chile, is a long skinny country that hugs the edge of a continent. Steep mountains and deep fjords divide the land and all the major cities are located on the coast.
Over the past five decades, North Sea oil has brought wealth, and what was long the poorest country of northern Europe is now the richest. That has sparked a wave of construction, mostly in infrastructure: bridges and tunnels to carry traffic through the mountains and from one island to another, leaving a multitude of ferries to traverse the fjords. In contrast to other oil-rich countries, Norway has remained egalitarian and has saved or spent its windfall responsibly, though there is now a flurry of commercial development and prestige projects.
Sadly, architects have been marginalized in this spurt of growth. Though Norway is a welfare state, there is no tradition of social housing and the profession lacks the prominence it enjoys in Denmark and Finland.
Even Sverre Fehn, a rare talent who won the Pritzker Prize in 1997, found little employment before his death in 2009. As in Sweden, large construction companies have a commanding role, especially in housing, which is costly and often poorly designed.
New and established firms have competed for structures sponsored by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration as overlooks and visitors’ facilities along 18 scenic routes. These have been widely publicized, and the juxtaposition of contemporary design with pristine landscapes is a unique endeavor. But no firm can survive on such modest commissions, and architects have had to make hard choices: stick to your principles and stay small, work abroad, or try to find a modus vivendi with the developers.
Nearly all the important practices are located in the capital. Oslo is still a compact, low-rise city of modestly-scaled housing and commercial buildings, though that is changing as real-estate prices soar and the former industrial waterfront is redeveloped. The old...

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