Walking Guide Tour in Bjørvika


Oslo’s great ambition is to become a leading sustainability capital in urban life and the environment. One of the fundamental missions is to develop a city that holds the dialog between local residents and private and public partners to create a democratic, vibrant and engaging city. Bjørvika is located in the heart of Oslo’s city; new development aims to reach these goals and provide high-quality architecture and public space that meets the Norwegian fjord. It is a typical post-industrial urban development located on top of the country’s largest transportation hub – Oslo S station. This extensive urban project wants to prove that living in the city center in a dense area can be attractive, safe, and sustainable.

Bjørvika District

Bjørvika is located at the very core of the city of Oslo that become a symbol of smart growing city planning strategy in Norway. The district strives to diversify new developments with several different building typologies linked together in the form of a sloping volume towards the fjord with access to high-quality public space for all residents. During the planning and construction process, indicators of carbon footprint and environmental sustainability goals (UN goals) were influential in designing the buildings and the city itself. 

Bjørvika. HAS architects AS

It is a public and private partnership to develop the city into a democratic, vibrant, and engaging space. As part of the smart growth strategy that prevents urban sprawl, one of the primary missions was to “invite children to the city,” demonstrating that raising a child in the city’s core can be as safe and exciting as the conventional way out in the suburban landscape. 

It is a typical post-industrial urban development that started in the 80s when the main Port, strategically located in the city transportation hub, was moved to a new location, allowing the city to grow. Urban planners, from the beginning, aspired for a new image that defined that at that time was yet to come.

Bjørvika is intended to reach new standards as a public space, environmentally positive development, and a place where the city defines its new character. Since 2000, it has undergone constant growth; however, its final stage is expected to be reached in 2025. In order to attract Oslo residents to fall in love with the new area and explore it, the municipality has decided to establish several cultural destinations to attract them and stimulate them to explore new urban development.

Deichmanske library

Deichman library

We will start our journey at the Deichman National Library, which opened its door in 2020. It is the newest – and most important library in Norway that strives to be where cultural events occur, and anyone is welcome to use the library’s resources. However, the government set strict goals regarding construction and materiality to show that it is possible to develop climate-neutral buildings in urban areas.

Deichman library. HAS architects AS

Despite the exciting interior and modern facade, our focus goes on the roof. It is a robust, long-lasting structure that cleans the air throughout the roof’s lifetime. The concrete is treated with technology that cleanses the air with the help of sun, wind, and rain. Environmentally harmful particles mainly come from burning fuels such as oil, diesel, and gas that get converted into harmless nitrate. When UV rays from the sun hit the roof, more than 85 percent of the harmful particles are neutralized. The rain then washes them away. In order to understand the impact of the roof, we can compare it to driving a car. When we drive 2,000 kilometers in the city of Oslo in a year, this greenhouse gas emission is neutralized with the help of 50 square meters of such structure. The roof at Deichman is 2,600 square meters and thus makes up for over 100,000 kilometers of driving older diesel cars in one year. There are still too few such designs in Oslo; therefore, the new Deichman in Bjørvika can inspire other projects.



The development of “Barcode” – a set of several high-rise buildings signifies a popular trend of developing cities in the spirit of a sustainable way of commuting and densifying around urban “hubs”. The development is located at the edge of the main railway station Oslo S, Norway’s busiest railway station. Barcode represents environmentally friendly urban development in Oslo. With Oslo S within walking distance, the vast majority of people who have a workplace here can travel by public transport to work from any place in the city and region. Few parking spaces have been established in the area to promote public and soft mobility. In addition, the main street through Bjørvika, Dronning Eufemias gate, runs parallel to the iconic buildings and has good public transport solutions. 

Barcode. HAS architects AS

One of the visions was to create a vibrant street life with a varied offer of places to eat, trade, and have cultural life. To achieve this, all the buildings in the row have been given commercial and business premises on the ground floor. 80% of the space is for commercial use, while 20% is residential. The idea behind the Barcode concept is to build high and close while simultaneously safeguarding sight lines from the city towards the fjord. This unique concept has won a number of awards and is attracting international attention. Aiming to create many job opportunities in the core of the city center strengthens public transportation investments and attracts people to stay in the city; thus, daily commuting is not that impactful, and suburban living is not that attractive. Despite being so central, walking conditions are enjoyable, and the traffic is low. 



Vannkunsten residential housing is another step on the journey. It is a cluster of buildings that perform “sustainably” on various scales: in terms of building performance and high-quality living standards, Scandinavian materiality heritage, and in urban scale – an urban village that introduces attractive public spaces to all citys residents (it is not a gated community) where people, water, services, and art meet.

The “urban floor” became the main focus around and between the tightly spaced buildings. In general, such low and dense volumes allow residents to connect with the street level and increase interactions among people by “grounding” them; thus creating a sense of community. Vannkunsten strives to resemble Scandinavian boathouses by the shore, revealing the archipelago in which the merging of sea and land occurs as an open semi-public waterfront habitation area. Carefully placed, irregular nine cubic structures of varying size and height are turned and rotated to create spatial tensions between the buildings and protect from the wind. The concept is strengthened through water channels penetrating the city’s promenade where new habitats of reef are established and maintained

Vannkunsten. HAS architects AS

Vannkunsten offers a home with the sea as the nearest neighbor through water exposed between the houses and intimate alleys surrounding them. The idea is that residents should feel a close connection to the water. The characteristic of the archipelago is that it mediates transitions, from the open fjord and into the calm inland waters, via reefs and islets. The settlement illustrates this narrative and creates a hierarchy of transitions.

Despite its price tag and national prestige, which may be alarming to architectural critics regarding affordability, I believe that the Vannkunsten is still more of a pilot project in Norway that challenges contemporary architectural aesthetics, intelligently reveals the landscape, and invite city residents to stay, with qualities discussed by people like Jane Jacobs or Jan Gehl.


Sørenga underwater landscape

Bjørvika is not only built on land, but numerous projects aim to develop underwater marine life. A comprehensive, long-term, and holistic general plan is developed to utilize the built environment and underwater landscape to establish biological diversity and form suitable habitats. Among the proposed measures is offering three-dimensional habitats for local species, such as marine hanging gardens and houses for crabs and lobsters on the seabed. Water quality is constantly measured to ensure safety for plants and species and for people who come to the neighborhood to enjoy swimming in the fjord. Visitors along the promenade can experience various waterfront edges providing direct contact with water. Collaboration between landscape architects, oceanographers, and marine biologists is a rare commodity. Through the work, the project group has established a number of new concepts and approaches that are essential contributions to the field that will be useful when other cities and port areas also have to think and act blue-green. 

Sørenga. HAS architects AS
Losæter garden

Losæter garden

Losæter garden is a modern community park established in 2011 as a community art project in the upcoming new district, namely Bjørvika. The art design “Victory Gardens” in San Francisco, led by Amy Franceschini and Futurefarmers, inspired the Oslos version of city farming. For many years, the ground surrounded by freeways and tunnels has been an urban wasteland where no one would imagine anything could grow. In 2015 farmers from more than 50 farms across the whole country gathered barrels of soil and, together with local activists, residents, and farm animals, transitioned the ground into an arable field

Losæter. Source: www.loseter.no

Losæter has grown over the years and gradually become a symbol of community and identity that takes over dead “in-between” space and transforms it into a thriving agricultural and social arena. The City of Oslo created a new job position – an urban farmer as part of the city management. Locally the site facilitates local gardening by allowing residents to have their parcels for planting crops and promotes sustainable choices through numerous events. It is a prevalent destination for nearby kindergartens and schools that educate children about ecological farming. During harvesting time, food produced locally is eaten at events and open dinners. Anyone is welcome to visit Losæter; however, guests cannot pick crops without the farmer’s permission. 


Environmental roof at Deichman library, BMI, 


Environmental guide for Bjørvika, Bjørvika utvikling, 2019 


Urban farming Losæter, last checked November 15th, 2022


Priority area for sustainable urban development, HAV eindom, 2019



Sources for the map: www.openstreetmaps.com