OSLO (NO) - The most talked about feature of the new Oslo Opera House is its roof. The sloping, publicly accessible surface was an original response on the part Snøhetta, the winners of the international design competition, to the request for a monumental building. The monumentality does not take the form of a classically designed introverted shrine with vertically articulated facades, but is the product of a desire to make the building as open as possible to the general public, a pursuit of horizontality. The building is the roof – a 'marble carpet' that invites artists and spectators to congregate, while at the same time linking land and water.
There is another sense, however, in which the building could be called classically monumental: the choice of Italian white La Facciata marble and the quality of the detailing together contribute to an overall sense of grandeur. And just as architects once worked with (or were themselves) painters and sculptors, Sn.hetta worked with a team of artists; in the case of the roof, Kristian Blystad, Kalle Grude and Jorunn Sannes. The architects were insistent that they should be involved in the actual design rather than just adding a few decorative afterthoughts. The aim was to articulate the 18,000 m2 surface in such a way that it would also be interesting at a smaller level of scale, but without ever upstaging the interior which is after all what it is all about.
Several studies led eventually to a specific, non-repeating pattern of integrated raised areas, special cuts, a variety of surface textures and specific details that together articulate the main geometry. The resulting stone roof, all 36,000 pieces of which were hand cut, can indeed be compared with a handwoven carpet. (Kirsten Hannema)