”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 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.
A detailed brief was developed as a basis for the competition. 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 romm groups have been adjusted in collaboration with the end user. These changes have improved the buildings functionality without affecting the architecture.
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 a monumentality based on these notions 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 horizontal extension and not verticality. The conceptual basis of the competition, and the final building, is a combination of thes three elements – The wave wall, the factory and the carpet.
The operahouse is the first element in the planned transformation of this area of the city. In 2010 the heavy traffic beside 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 public face of the operahouse faces west and north – while at the same time, the building’s profile is clear from a great distance from the fjord to the south. Viewed from the Akershus castle and from the grid city the building creates a relationship between the fjord and the Ekerberg hill to the east. Seen from the central station and Chr. Fredriks sq. The opera catches the attention with a falling which frames the eastern edge of the view of the fjord and its islands. The building connects city and fjord, urbanity and landscape. To the East, the ‘factory’ is articulated and varied. One can see the activities within the building: Ballet reheasal rooms at the upper levels, workshops at street level. The future connection to a living and animated new part of town will give a greater sense of urbanity.
Collaboration with artists
For Snøhetta, close collaboration with artists has always been an important part of building projects. As early as the competition stage, artist were invited in as collaborators, and the wished to continue this from the beginning of the design phase. Snøhetta have tried to avoid having artist apply ‘decoration’ to the architecture, prefering to allow for an open dialogue between artists, artisans and professionals with various approaches to important building elements. With the operahouse, the architect intended that both the large marble clad roofscape and the aluminium clad facades should be approached as collaborative endeavours. An early collaboration was established for the sone roof with artists: Kristian Blystad, Kalle Grude og Jorunn Sannes. One year later, in accordance with the guidelines for state funding building projects, a committee for integrated artwork was established. This committee engaged the artists Astrid Løvaas og Kirsten Wagle to collaborate on the design of the metal cladding elements.
Choice of materials
The materials, with their specific weight, colour, texture and temperature, have been vital to the design of the building. Snøhettas architecture is narative. 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. 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.
After an international tender competition, th italian marble, La Facciata, was chosen. This is a stone which, in common with other marbles, retains its brilliance and colour even when wet. It has the necessary technical quality in terms of stabitity, density, and longevity. The producer, Campolonghi, has had the professional ability, capacity, and experience necessary for such a large and complex project. The accessibble area of the ‘carpet’ is approx. 18,000 m2. Its detailed design has been important: the architect desired that it should not interfere with the general dorm of the building but that it simultaneously was articulated enough to be ineresting at close quarters. Together with the artists several alternatives were proposed before a particular non repetitive pattern with integrated riased areas, special cuts, various surface textures, and specific details were designed to articulate the main geometry.
Oak has been chosen as the dominating material for both the ’wave wall’ and the main auditorium. For the wave wall it has a light and varied surface. Oak is used throughout for the floors, walls and ceilings. The wave wall has a complex organic geometri made up of joined cone shapes. It is also an important acoustic attenuator within the foyer space. To achieve these goals it is made up of smaller elements which can deal with the changing geometry and provide acoustic absorption. Inside the auditorium oak has been chosen for a number of reasons: It is dense, easily formed, stable and tactile. The oak has been treated with amonia to give a dark tone. Here too oak is used for floors, walls, and ceilings, as well as balcony fronts, and acoustic reflectors.
An operahouse is designed and built to have a long lifespan. This means that a simple, modern metal cladding, such as we associate with factories and workshops, needs to be re-evaluated and redesigned. After a consideration of aesthetics, longevity, maleability and the possibility to make very flat panel, aluminium wa chosen. To give the panels further quality, a collabarative process was begun with two artists. The design team initially aimed for an industrial modulrity but that the panels themselve should have greater visual quality. The panels were punched with convex spherical segments and concave conical forms. The pattern was developed by the artists based on old weaving techniques. In all, eight different panels were designed which give a constantly changing effect depending on the angle, intensity and colour of the light playing on them.
The high glass facade over the foyer has a dominant role in the views of the building from the south, west, and north. Early in the project it was realised that this glass faced was more important than previously assumed, both during the day and night when it would act as a lamp illuminating the external surfaces. The glass façade is up to 15 meters high. It was the architects intention to design a glass construction with an absolute minimum og columns, framing, and stiffening in steel. The solution was to use glass fins where minimised steel fixings are sandwiched inside the laminates. The requirements for the glass’s stiffness increased due to the desire for large panels and slim joints where the panels meet. Thick glass of this sort tends to be quite green rather than transparent. It was therefore decided that the façade of the operahouse would use low iron glass.
Design team: Team architects: Anne-Cecilie Haug, Ibrahim El Hayawan, Tine Hegli, Jette Hopp, Zenul Khan, Frank Kristiansen, Cecilia Landmark, Camilla Moneta, Aase Kari Mortensen, Frank Nodland, Andreas Nygaard, Michael Pedersen, Harriet Rikheim, Margit Tidemann Ruud, Marianne Sætre, Knut Tronstad, Tae Young Yoon.
Team landscape architects: Ragnhild Momrak, Andreas Nypan
Team interior architects: Bjørg Aabø, Christina Sletner
Client: Client: Ministry of Church an Cultural Affairs
Building Client: Statsbygg (The Governmental Building Agency)
End User: The Norwegian Opera & Ballet