The operahouse is the first element in the planned transformation of this area of Oslo. In 2010 the heavy traffic next to the building will be moved into a tunnel under the fjord. Due to its size and aesthetic expression, the operahouse will stand apart from other buildings in the area. The marble clad roofscape forms a large public space in the landscape of the city and the fjord.
The conceptual basis of the competition entry, and the final building, is a combination of three elements – the wave wall, the factory and the carpet.
The wave wall : Opera and ballet are young artforms in Norway. These artforms evolve in an international setting . The Bjørvika peninsula is part of a harbour city, which is historically the meeting point with the rest of the world. The dividing line between the ground ’here’ and the water ‘there’ is both a real and a symbolic threshold. This threshold is realised as a large ‘wave wall’ on the line of the meeting between land and sea, Norway and the world, art and everyday life. This is the threshold where the public meet the art.
The Factory : Snøhetta proposed that the production facitities of the operahouse should be realised as a self contained, rationally planned ‘factory’. This factory should be both functional and flexible during the planning phase as well as in later use. This flexibility has proved to be very important during the planning phase: a number of rooms and room groups have been adjusted in collaboration with the end user. These changes have improved the buildings functionality without affecting the architecture.
The Carpet : The competion brief stated that the operahouse should be of high architectural quality and should be monumental in it’s expression. One idea stood out as a legitimation of this monumentality: The concept of togetherness, joint ownership, easy and open access for all. To achieve this, we wished to make the opera accessible in the widest possible sense, by laying out a ‘carpet’ of horizontal and sloping surfaces on top of the building. This carpet has been given an articulated form, related to the cityscape. Monumentality is achieved through wide horizontal extension and not verticality.
Materials : In the operahouse, three main materials were specified as early as the competition entry: White stone for the ‘carpet’, timber for the ‘wave wall’, and metal for the ‘factory’. During the continued work on the project, a fourth material, glass, which allows for the exposure of the underside of the ‘carpet’, has been given specific attention. The materials, with their specific weight, colour, texture and temperature, have been vital to the design of the building. Snøhetta’s architecture is narrative. It is the materials which form the defining elements of the spaces. It is the meeting of the materials which articulates the architecture through varied detail and precision.
The Oslo Opera is one of three projects in the EU-project “ECO-Culture”, which focuses on energy efficiency in cultural buildings.