Satellite is asking designers to discuss issues affecting the places where they live and work. Earlier this year, we spoke to Bjarne Ringstad, a founding partner of Norwegian architecture firm Code and curator of the 2010 Oslo Triennale, about his fears that families are being driven out of the capital.
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What is nice about Oslo is that we’ve always had a lot of kids, a lot of families. They’d work at the shipyard and raise their kids. But now a lot of the local schools are in big pressure to relocate or just go away. We have some new laws that say they have to change their buildings and so on, and of course a lot of the buildings are very attractive for housing.
But I think that keeping these kinds of institutions within Oslo is very important. I think you should kind of have a political and architectural awareness of this kind of transformation. What we’re seeing in the expensive new residential developments by the fjord is that there are no families there. The families are moving out of Oslo, like a 30-minute bus ride away, to the suburbs.
Oslo’s growing like hell. The growth of Oslo will be enormous for the next 20 years, because we’re actually emptying out some of the rest of Norway. People are coming here all the time, but they’re establishing themselves in the outskirts.
The outskirts are really good at positioning themselves. If we do infrastructural investments nowadays, it’s primarily to work on the connection between the suburbs and Oslo transportation-wise, by rail or car. The politics around that are very good—the outskirts are very well represented politically, so they get these things done. Norway also has this very strong political movement for anything but the cities, because we try to really have big support systems for the rural areas.
A lot of people from the west of Oslo, they might have a one-and-a-half-hour train ride, and they go in and out every day. Of course you’ll find this in every city. But my point is that what is special about Oslo is that there’s a lot of space, and a lot of green space, within the city. You can go forty minutes up to go skiing in the winter, or you can go twenty minutes down and go for a swim, catch a fish at the fjord. So there’s tremendous possibility in this kind of environment, this kind of city, to make it a better place for a very broad spectrum of different people. There’s actually not any space problem at all.
The policy connecting this is not clear. The main thing is that you should have a public discussion about it. So at the triennale, we tried to address this by making a political project where the kids from the nearby schools came in. It was also about whether it was possible, in a kind of architectural way, to change urban space, for the short or longer term; to adapt to a different use. So we had some architects and some artists come. They went out and collected materials from the waste places of Oslo. I just made one rule: you can’t buy anything. You can make whatever you want, but everything has to be found. So they did, they made something, and the kids came in and they also built something.