Oslo – the heart of Scandinavian design

Scandinavia is currently the centre of attention on the global stage as the world goes mad for its clean, minimalistic aesthetic and interesting lifestyle trends such as ‘hygge’. However, Norway and Oslo, in particular, seems to be at the hub of it all. Here Leonard Design Director, John Morgan, discusses ‘the Oslo factor’ as the city is named the fastest-growing capital in Europe.



slo is the fastest-growing capital in Europe, and in recent years its industrial areas have been transformed into thriving, attractive neighbourhoods for its rapidly expanding population and the influx of tourists.

One such part of the city that is experiencing the fastest rate of transformation is the Bjørvika area of the Fjord City redevelopment which hosts the famous Barcode Project, Oslo Opera House, Oslo Public Library and, following its planned 2020 relocation, the Munch Museum. Located within this impressive skyline is Bispevika, a mixed-use development on the city’s waterfront which will contain a unique mix of culture, community, art and retail, as well as office and residential space.

John Morgan, Director at Leonard Design, the architect practice developing the ground floor masterplan of Bispevika, commented: “The landscape and skyline of Oslo are in a state of change and everyone is paying close attention. It has been named ‘the most expensive city to live in’1 but also voted ‘the best place in the world for young architects to find work’2, consequently making it an inspiring place right now for architecture.”

In 2016, Leonard Design Architects was chosen by client OSU and was brought on board to collaborate with the various local Norwegian architect firms that have designed different sections of the scheme. The Leonard Design team were asked to use their expert knowledge to activate the ground floor of the whole Bispevika development, and to create a new, unique district for the city.

“For any project, it is the ground floor that sets the scene for the entire development as city life will revolve around its urban spaces, public transport hubs and convenient access points for work, living or leisure. Therefore, it is essential to get it right to ensure a development is a busy, bustling part of the city.

“The Bispevika project will rejuvenate the old docks and provide brilliant public access to the waterfront as we want to encourage tourism but, more importantly, we want to create an area that will make the city better for the existing residents. The development will act as the central area that binds sub-areas such as Sørenga, Middeladerparken, Barcode and Bjørvika together into a coherent central district but will also, importantly, connect the land with the sea.

“We conducted lots of new research and analysis on what makes excellent street environments and characterises different zones to enable a successful scheme as the development is in such a high-profile area surrounded by architecturally stunning buildings such as the Oslo Opera House and Barcode.

“The push and pull of height versus width and small spaces, versus open spaces are just two of the juxtapositions to think about when considering a masterplan and among the many elements we considered with this project.”


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