Consolidate or Die

Oslo Pilot launches a project which examines the abandonment of historical buildings in the city of Oslo as cultural institutions merge and occupy newly built facilities.

Oslo Pilot, Consolidate or die. Munch Museum Exterior 1963. Foto Teigens fotoatelier
Oslo Pilot launches City of Dislocation, an extensive project unfolding over the course of two years which examines the abandonment of historical buildings in the city of Oslo as cultural institutions merge and occupy newly built facilities.
Munch Museum_Foto Knudsens fotosenter_Copyright DEXTRA Photo
Top: Munch Museum Exterior 1963. Photo Teigens fotoatelier. Above: Munch Museum. Photo Knudsens fotosenter. © DEXTRA Photo
Conceived and developed by architects Johanne Borthne and Vilhelm Christensen, curator and writer Martin Braathen and architectural historian Even Smith Wergeland in collaboration with Oslo Pilot curators Eva González-Sancho and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk, the project launches with Consolidate or Die, a fascinating survey of some of these historical landmarks. In its entirety, the project will raise pertinent questions about how Norway’s unprecedented economic prosperity and construction boom is changing the cultural fabric of the city.
Deichmanske bibliotek, hovedutlånet, 1959
Deichmanske bibliotek, 1959. Photo Leif Ørnelund © Oslo Museum

Today Oslo faces a historic challenge. An increasing number of the city’s historical buildings are being abandoned and face closure as cultural and social institutions relocate to new, custombuilt structures. The astonishing pace at which this is happening not only leaves behind a trace of buildings reduced to empty shells, but also drains traditional neighbourhoods of their biggest architectural and institutional assets.

It is no coincidence that so many of the city’s significant buildings are being vacated in such a short span of time. The same factors are usually at play: real and imagined growing pains of the respective institutions, political visions of culture as a magnet for tourism and investment opportunities and a strong belief in contemporary architecture as a solution to institutional challenges. These trends are intrinsically linked to a period of explosive economic growth, which has created a political climate in which fast-paced public expenditure on new cultural buildings has become commonplace.

Parkeringsplass Tullinløkka 1974
Parkeringsplass Tullinløkka, 1974. Photo Leif Ørnelund © Oslo Museum
A key word here is consolidation. This process of consolidation is apparent at three levels: a shift in cultural policy-making at state level, which introduced new ways of thinking about museum collections and the historical buildings that housed them. Both were to be replaced by more progressive exhibition strategies and architectural frameworks. This reform also led to dramatic changes at institutional level. Existing institutions were encouraged to morph into bigger administrative units – hence the arrival of Oslo’s National Museum in 2003. This in turn led to substantial changes at city level in Oslo. With the formal approval of the Fjord City scheme in 2003, the newly morphed institutions were given the opportunity to relocate to the city’s waterfront. This urban strategy speeded up the institutional and architectural transformation – the two most vital cogs in the wheels of consolidation.
Deichmanske bibliotek
Deichmanske bibliotek, 1959. Photo Leif Ørnelund © Oslo Museum
This phenomenon of consolidation and abandonment of historical buildings clearly has a number of consequences with regards to urban planning and architectural development, but also cultural and institutional identity and community life. Some of these consequences will be highlighted in the first part of the project, Consolidate or Die, which will provide a survey and critical analysis of five historical buildings in Oslo that are facing abandonment over the next few years: The National Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Deichmanske Library, the Munch Museum and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design.
In the second part of the project, City of Dislocation will continue to study and map out similar historical landmarks, looking both backwards and forwards in time to generate ideas as to their possible future uses. Running from 2016 through to 2017, the project will feature a series of presentations and events as well as publications, digital projects and other diverse formats.
Munch Museum Exterior 1963. Photo Teigens fotoatelier
Munch Museum Exterior 1963. Photo Teigens fotoatelier © DEXTRA Photo

21 January – 18 March
City of Dislocation
Part I: Consolidate or Die
Oslo Pilot Project Room
Prinsens Gate 2, Oslo

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