The best of Oslo's new architecture / by Tom Oliver Payne

One of my favourite bars in London is called 'Oslo'. It has a super clean design and generally nice aesthetic and it's always filled with really good looking people... I guess the main reason I travelled to the real Oslo last week is because I figured it would be a bigger version of that bar.

While both of these expectations were surpassed, the city's sense of design in particular, far exceeded my predictions. When I stepped out at Oslo Central Station, I found myself surrounded by incredible new buildings encompassing a mix of interesting shapes and sizes. But of course, all details finished with a subtle air of elegance. In true Nordic fashion. 

After two decades of financial growth and a thriving arts and cultural scene, the city is drawing in buyers and investors from around the world. And fortunately (unlike many cities), they're working with some of the best designers to show off their ideas. 

With half the waterfront still under construction, it quickly became clear to me that Oslo is experiencing an architectural explosion. 

Here are my three favourite contemporary architecture projects in the city.

The Barcode Project

The Barcode Project is a huge area of redevelopment along the edge of Oslo's waterfront. Full of mixed-use high rise buildings, it's home to incredible designs by some of Scandinavia's best architects. 

From west to east, its main buildings include PriceWaterhouseCoopers Building by A-lab Architects, the Kommunal Landspensjonskasse Building by Solheim & Jacobsen, the Deloitte Buidling Building by Snøhetta, Visma designed by Dark Arkitekter and DnB NOR from MVRDV Architects. In addition to these, Barcode includes loads of buildings and hundreds of apartments with designs that architects in many cities around the world are rarely given the creative freedom to explore.

With the tallest heights in the city and over 20,000 of development, the Project has changed the face of Oslo. Suddenly the city does not just sit flat along the water's edge, but this impressive cluster of beautiful towers is now attracting residents, visitors and businesses from around the world. 


Designed by Snøhetta and opening in 2008, the Oslo Opera House is the home of Norway's National Opera and Ballet. Located just across from the Barcode Project, the building has helped to completely transform this part of the city. 

Made up of 1,100 rooms and with a main stage which can seat 1,364 people, the Opera House is the largest cultural building in Norway since 1300 - finally taking out Trondheim's Nidaros Cathedra as the top-dog. 

But what I found even cooler than the size or extravagance of the design, is how the building has created an entirely new public urban space for people to check our views of the city. With two sloping ramps on either side of the building, pedestrians are invited to walk onto the rooftop to make the most of this reclaimed section of the harbour.

In addition, its beautiful white materials and clean shapes make it an awesome place for film and photography. While I didn't check out any shows on my visit, I can only imagine the internal auditorium is pretty cool too. 


Once only 5 hectares in size, Tjuvhomen was increased to 33 hectares in the early 1900's to be used as a docking area for ships. After years of disuse the area was bought by private landowners, and since 2005 has been the centre of a huge urban renewal project.

With Renzo Piano's Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and Skulpurpark being the 2 most incredible architectural pieces on the peninsula, credit should also be given to architectural practices including Kristin Jarmund and Scmidt Hammer Lassen, who've created amazing buildings and public spaces within the neighbourhood.

Similar to Copenhagen's Islands Brygge, as part of the development, the Tjuvholmen water's edge now also includes an amazing swimming area, making a great summer chill-spot...

If only every city did the same.

Get yourself to Oslo and take a wander.

- Tom