Status: Competition (2014)
Types: Intervention, Public space
This dramatic fiction tells the original story of Høyblokka.
Høyblokka is still part of the landscape of Oslo but it no longer holds the same place. The disaster has led it to a complete silence. Høyblokka, symbol of a powerful modern architecture, has been shaken. To hide this extreme fragility, the authorities have totally covered it with a huge canvas, which was supposed to only be temporary. A long period followed this dramatic event, during which architects, public authorities, urban planners and philosophers have discussed Høyblokka’s future. Away from those bogged-down debates, the inhabitants of Oslo are noticing that the paradox between the monumentality of Høyblokka and its profound fragility is getting worse. An enigmatic atmosphere now surrounds that former glory.
Praise of modernism
Høyblokka was the first of a group of buildings planned to host the Government. It quickly became one of the most symbolic buildings in Oslo, both because of its monumentality and its embrace of modernist principles (piloti, the free plan, roof garden, free design of the façade). Y-blokka followed, but the symbolism and the modernism initiated by those two buildings spread to entire neighborhoods. As well as being avant-garde, they deal with art as public property. These buildings have been models for other projects in several cities across the world: New York, Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm…
This urban masterpiece, designed by the architect Erling Viksjø, is synonymous with hope for the city of Oslo. Indeed, as the rest of the world, Oslo has been wanting to move on ever since the World War II ended.
Whilst the city of Oslo keeps developing, symposia, debates and lectures about the future of Høyblokka have been taking place ever since the disaster. But even though Høyblokka is not overlooked, it suffers the lack of real action. Little by little, it starts to become isolated from the planning of the rest of Oslo. While Høyblokka was a symbol of an urban regeneration, now it seems terribly remote from the urban dynamics that animate the Norwegian capital.
Even if the debate around Høyblokka is still bogged down, the inhabitants of Oslo stay tuned. There are two opposite positions: The first is to keep Høyblokka as it is now. The second is to tear down the building since “it’s just a building”, and then build something new. But are we able to build something which can fill the void that a demolition would create? Conscious of the architectural, spiritual and moral strength of Viksjø’s building, the inhabitants of Oslo will give Høyblokka back the symbolism it always wanted to embody: “A social democratic building”.
Tired of the current situation, together they decide to cross the mental boundary and fulfill again the aim of this place, by giving it life without forgetting its deep history.
The free design of the plan easily enables the inhabitants to make new places inside Høyblokka. Thus they can insert their understanding of a new modernity through contemporary uses. The permanence of Høyblokka was in its scale, and its position in the urban landscape. After several years, the tarpaulin that covers the façade is finally removed. The façade is now designed according to the inhabitant’s desires and assumes the diversity of the people who are living in the building.
In addition to this, new eyes can open on the city of Oslo by going up to the terrace, which gives an overview of Oslo from inside the city and breaks the silence that Høyblokka was immersed in since the disaster.
Now Høyblokka is definitely back again in the daily life of Oslo.