Architect’s description The opera house is the realisation of the winning competition entry. Four diagrams, which were part of the entry, explain the building’s basic concept. ”The wave wall” Opera and ballet are young art forms in Norway. These art forms evolve in an international setting. The Bjørvika peninsula is part of a harbour city, which is historically the meeting point with the rest of the world. The dividing line between the ground ’here’ and the water ‘there’ is both a real and a symbolic threshold. This threshold is realised as a large wall on the line of the meeting between land and sea, Norway and the world, art and everyday life. This is the threshold where the public meet the art. ”The Factory” A detailed brief was developed as a basis for the competition. Snøhetta proposed that the production facilities of the opera house should be realised as a self-contained, rationally planned ‘factory’. This factory should be both functional and flexible during the planning phase as well as in later use. This flexibility has proved to be very important during the planning phase: a number of rooms and room groups have been adjusted in collaboration with the end user. These changes have improved the buildings functionality without affecting the architecture. ”The Carpet” The competition brief stated that the opera house should be of high architectural quality and should be monumental in its expression. One idea stood out as a legitimation of this monumentality: the concept of togetherness, joint ownership, easy and open access for all. To achieve a monumentality based on these notions we wished to make the opera accessible in the widest possible sense, by laying out a ‘carpet’ of horizontal and sloping surfaces on top of the building. This carpet has been given an articulated form, related to the cityscape. Monumentality is achieved through horizontal extension and not verticality. The conceptual basis of the competition, and the final building, is a combination of these three elements – The wave wall, the factory and the carpet. Urban situation The opera house is the first element in the planned transformation of this area of the city. In 2010 the heavy traffic besides the building will be moved into a tunnel under the fjord. Due to its size and aesthetic expression, the opera house will stand apart from other buildings in the area. The marble clad roofs cape forms a large public space in the landscape of the city and the fjord. The public face of the opera house faces west and north – while at the same time, the building’s profile is clear from a great distance from the fjord to the south. Viewed from the Akershus castle and from the grid city the building creates a relationship between the fjord and the Ekerberg hill to the east. Seen from the central station and Chr. Fredriks sq., the opera catches the attention with a falling which frames the eastern edge of the view of the fjord and its islands. The building connects city and fjord, urbanity and landscape. To the East, the ‘factory’ is articulated and varied. One can see the activities within the building: Ballet rehearsal rooms at the upper levels, workshops at street level. The future connection to a living and animated new part of town will give a greater sense of urbanity.
The new Oslo Opera building is a very complex with a high quality finish. The main hall has a capacity of 1,400 seats and includes a large presence of wood and excellent acoustics. Frapont participated in the construction of the New Oslo Opera building with two contracts: flooring and acoustic elements (manufacture, supply and installation of all wood floors of the building and part of the acoustic wall coverings)
The oak wood used in the work was of European origin.
1 º FLOORING
1.1 Structure of fir tree wood and plywood 30mm double layer installed over existing metal supports. On the structure of wood a solid hardwood parquet oak treated with ammonia was installed in 500x70x22mm slats and finished with 3 coats of vegetable oil. A total of 2000m ² in the main room, divided between tiers, balconies, indoor mobile platforms and side access.
1.2 Directly on concrete construction, a total of 2,500 m² of floor boards and stair treads in external access galleries to the main room were glued. The parquet in this case did not contain ammonia, but was a natural finish with 3 coats of vegetable oil.
1.3 Also in offices, vip room and living room a natural solid oak parquet finished with three coats of vegetable oil was used and glued directly to concrete work. There were a total of approximately 1,000 sqm.
1.4 In Small- Chamber or Chamber Hall were installed over the existing metal structure, the structures of balconies and stairs with fir tree wood and plywood double layer of 30mm. For the finish of these and for the stalls was used a Swedish pine parquet ( Flanders pine ) of section 70x22mm black tinted and cut into strips of various lengths. ( 1.200m ² )
1.5 In choir room total of 300m ² stands were formed with a structure in spruce wood and plywood, installed directly on concrete, and finishing with European oak parquet three layer of vegetable oil and cut into sections of 500x70x22mm .
1.6 Test Chamber Orchestra: the ground was installed on a structure in wood of fir tree over a layer of acoustic insulation, plywood board and a final layer of parquet U.S. Oregon pine finished with three coats of vegetable oil. ( 300m ² )
1.7 The Ballet Rehearsal rooms and multipurpose rooms, gathering a total of approximately 4,000 sqm surface, we installed over the concrete a layer of acoustic insulation, plywood board, three layers of cross battens and a final layer of Swedish pine parquet ( flanders ) natural finish ( without any treatment) All this was prepared as a solid base in order to accommodate a special carpet for dancing.
2nd ACOUSTIC ELEMENTS
2.1 A total of 1,400 units of elements created with different ways to achieve varying acoustic approximation. These elements were made by MDF 16mm and 19mm panels, forming cubes of different shapes and dimensions, with an internal structure of fir tree wood, mineral wool acoustic fleece. The elements were finished with a lacquered in various colours depending on the type of room that concerned (dance hall, rehearsal hall, ...)
2.2 In the pit orchestra of the Main Hall there are special acoustic elements. They were formed by movable panels with black lacquered metal structures, and with internal moving panels by a rotating shaft with a perimeter metal lacquered, lacquered MDF panels, rock wool and acoustic fabric as the final element. (26 units)
2.3 In the Rehearsal Room and Orchestra the desired acoustics is achieved with the coating of all perimeter walls of the room by moving black lacquered metal structure, rock wool and acoustic fabric, finishing on the outside with lacquered MDF slats with different sections but always installed from floor to ceiling. ( 900m ² )
2.4 Among other elements, Frapont also executed works as manhole covers in stainless steel and plywood, facilities channels in plywood and stainless steel, and baseboards of corridors and rooms in different finishes that were required under the place where they were be installed . Were installed approximately 6.000ml stainless steel skirting and 2,000 ml of wood finish skirting( MDF, European oak , pine Swedish ...)
”The wave wall” Opera and ballet are young artforms in Norway. These artforms evolve in an international setting . The Bjørvika peninsula is part of a harbour city, which is historically the meeting point with the rest of the world.. The dividing line between the ground ’here’ and the water ‘there’is both a real and a symbolic threshold. This threshold is realised as a large wall on the line of the meeting between land and sea, Norway and the world, art and everyday life. This is the threshold where the public meet the art.
”The Factory” A detailed brief was developed as a basis for the competition. Snøhetta proposed that the production facitities of the operahouse should be realised as a self contained, rationally planned ‘factory’. This factory should be both functional and flexible during the planning phase as well as in later use. This flexibility has proved to be very important during the planning phase: a number of rooms and romm groups have been adjusted in collaboration with the end user. These changes have improved the buildings functionality without affecting the architecture.
”The Carpet” The competion brief stated that the operahouse should be of high architectural quality and should be monumental in it’s expression. One idea stood out as a legitimation of this monumentality: The concept of togetherness, joint ownership, easy and open access for all. To achieve a monumentality based on these notions we wished to make the opera accessible in the widest possible sense, by laying out a ‘carpet’ of horizontal and sloping surfaces on top of the building. This carpet has been given an articulated form, related to the cityscape. Monumentality is achieved through horizontal extension and not verticality.
The conceptual basis of the competition, and the final building, is a combination of thes three elements – The wave wall, the factory and the carpet.
The operahouse is the first element in the planned transformation of this area of the city. In 2010 the heavy traffic beside the building will be moved into a tunnel under the fjord. Due to its size and aesthetic expression, the operahouse will stand apart from other buildings in the area. The marble clad roofscape forms a large public space in the landscape of the city and the fjord.
The public face of the operahouse faces west and north – while at the same time, the building’s profile is clear from a great distance from the fjord to the south. Viewed from the Akershus castle and from the grid city the building creates a relationship between the fjord and the Ekeberg hill to the east. Seen from the central station and Chr. Frederiks sq. the opera catches the attention with a falling which frames the eastern edge of the view of the fjord and its islands. The building connects city and fjord, urbanity and landscape.
In July 1999 Statsbygg was commissioned to plan for a new opera house. In the year 2000 an open architect competition was held which attracted the largest number of entries of any such competition in Norway. An international jury selected the architecture firm Snøhetta as the winner.
The opera house is 38 500 square metres in size and has close to 1000 rooms. The house is divided into three main sections: the audience section, the rehearsal and administration section and the workshop section. The house has three stages: the Main Stage with approximately 1400 seats, Scene 2 with up to 440 seats and Rehearsal Stage 1 with 200 seats. The workshop section with paint workshop, carpentry workshop and smithy was brought into use on 1 September 2007, six months ahead of the original plan.
Execution A total of 60 building contracts have been supervised. The project management organization has changed according to requirements, but has on average consisted of 20 individuals and project director Roar Bjordal from Statsbygg. In addition, the project organization has had 30 associated foremen. During the entire project period there has been close cooperation with The Norwegian Opera & Ballet. The opera house is a very complex building and it has been demanding for everyone who has participated in the project. The market situation in recent years has also presented a challenge; it has been difficult to attract bids, and the prices offered have frequently been well above budget. This has necessitated certain simplifications and close control of finances in order to complete the project within budgetary constraints.
The chandelier In 2007 it has largely been the technical contracts that have been carried out. That is to say electrical, heating, ventilation and plumbing and not least theatre technology. In addition the final decoration work has been completed. The audience seating has been installed and the chandelier in the Main Stage has been hoisted into place. It was designed and built in cooperation between Snøhetta, Eidskog Mekaniske Verksted and Hadeland Glassworks and has a diameter of seven metres.
In 2007 the final stones were laid down on the plaza. Finally, the 36 000 pieces in the marble and granite jigsaw were completed. All were ready-cut in various shapes and sizes. The foyer also has marble flooring.
Theatre technology The building contains advanced stage technology, particularly on the Main Stage and Stage 2. The Main Stage has 16 elevators that can be moved up and down independently. It has a moveable rotating stage, two side stages and a background stage. Stage 2 will also be equipped with advanced theatre technology and a very advanced electro-acoustic system.
Achievement of goals The main goal for the opera house project was that the building should manifest itself as an important monument that both highlights Norway as a nation of culture and the Norwegian Opera & Ballet’s significance in The Norwegian culture and society. The huge interest the project has generated during the construction period indicates that this goal will be achieved. During the construction period Statsbygg has hosted and informed more than 70 000 people on various aspects of the building.
Facilities for the disabled Statsbygg has cooperated closely with societies for the disabled during the entire construction period. They have been given access to drafts and provided several suggestions that have been taken into account. One example is “talking signs”, which guide the blind and visually impaired. The stages will be equipped with induction loops and the Main Stage has a total of 72 possible wheelchair spaces.
THE PATH TO A NEW OPERA HOUSE
By the time the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet was finally able to invite the public into an opera house of its own in 2008, the wish to have a dedicated opera and ballet venue in Norway had been debated for more than a century. An important step on the way to realising it was taken in 1957 with the formation of the Norwegian National Opera and the appointment of the world-famous opera singer Kirsten Flagstad as its first director. While the opera and ballet companies rehearsed and performed in Folketeatret at Youngstorget in Oslo, a painstaking political process was playing out which eventually culminated in the year 2000 with Parliamentary approval to build a new opera house. It was to be sited in Oslo’s old Bjørvika harbour area as the first building in a comprehensive urban development project for the area.
THE OPERA HOUSE’S ARCHITECTURE
Since the opening, pictures of the angular architecture seemingly arising from the waters of Oslo Fjord have become known around the world and today are considered the keystone signature of the Oslo Opera House. This was precisely the intention of the firm of architects behind this iconic design, Snøhetta, which wanted to make the roof a platform accessible to all and in so doing create a new public space in the centre of Oslo. A parallel wish was to create a new landscape that would draw together the natural beauty of Oslo Fjord and the city.
In the foyer the public is met by a light, open space with a large, undulating oakwood wall. Behind this wall are the opera house’s three performance halls, with the Main House forming the heart of the building. Acoustic requirements determined the interior design of the Main House, and the combination of timbre and tonal possibilities and the dark, golden woodwork can be said to have transformed the Main House into a singularly outsized wooden instrument.
Oslo Opera House also has two smaller stages - the Second House and the Studio. Advanced theatre technology, specially built workshops, and rehearsal rooms for dance, song, orchestra and chorus make Oslo Opera House a modern, fully integrated performance venue. Every step in the process of creating performance art can be completed here.
BACKSTAGE From north to south through the Opera House runs a high, inbuilt structure referred to as Opera House Street that separates the stages and the public areas from the production side where the rehearsal rooms, song and ballet studios, workshops and offices are located. Architecturally, the production side is separated from the public areas through the use of functional materials and right angles. However, the common element is openness. Visitors who wander around the Opera House can look through the big glass windows and catch a glimpse of activity in the scene painting room, sewing room, and hat and mask section. In this way the Opera House is open and accessible and offers the public an insight into its inner workings.
MATERIAL USED The Snøhetta architects used three main materials in designing Oslo Opera House: stone, wood and metal. The principal stone used in the construction is the characteristic white marble from Carrara in Italy. The wood used in the foyer, public galleries and the Main House is oak, while the metal facades on the roof are aluminium. In addition, the design makes extensive use of large glass facades.
DECORATIVE ARTWORK Oslo Opera House features eight arts projects in which 17 different artists were involved. The majority of the artwork is more or less integrated into the building, such as the stage curtain Metafoil by Pae White and the four predominantly white-lit installations in the wardrobe area of the foyer by Olafur Eliasson called The Other Wall. Other artworks not integrated into the architecture include Monica Bonvicini’s sculpture She Lies, anchored in the waters of the harbour outside the Opera House.
OSLO OPERA HOUSE IN THE OPERA HOUSE TRADITION
The Oslo Opera House joins a long opera house tradition. How has opera house architecture developed? And what are the differences and similarities between the various opera houses?
The origins of the opera house Opera is a composite art form in which many types of performance art are merged into one. Therefore opera houses are built to specialised requirements in terms of stage areas, daily operations and audience functions. The opera singer first appeared around 1600, inspired by ancient Greek and Roman theatre. The first opera halls were built by the nobility in their castles and palaces, and were modelled on ancient semi-circular outdoor amphitheatres. One example is Teatro Farnese in Parma, which was completed in 1618. Here, a new invention was also incorporated: a hole in the wall that served as a stage opening, with a curtain in front of it that could be raised and lowered.
OPERA HALL AND STAGE
The first public opera house, Teatro di San Cassiano, opened in Venice in 1637. Very soon the horseshoe-shaped opera hall evolved, with balconies and galleries on several levels. This ensured good acoustics and good views for hundreds of people at the same time, while lavishly decorated timber walls were used to create irregular surfaces that reflected, absorbed and spread the sound throughout the hall.
As with the new opera houses in Helsinki, Gothenburg and Glyndebourne in southern England, the Oslo Opera House opted for the traditional horseshoe design for the main performance hall. The wall surfaces, shape and size are all based on the old Semper Opera in Dresden, whose hall is especially renowned for its excellent acoustics.
In both older and newer opera houses it has become customary to build smaller secondary halls, often based on a black box design (basically a simple, right-angled flexible hall). Oslo Opera House also has two smaller halls, where the stage solutions and audience placing are changeable. The performance space known as the Studio can certainly be called a black box, while the Second House can be considered a technically advanced secondary performance hall.
Advanced stage technology was in existence as early as the 17th century, with moveable floor surfaces, sliding walls and sets that could be lowered onto the stage. These technologies are also found in modern-day opera houses, and today modern stage technology also includes lighting effects from hundreds of floodlights and spotlights. Up until the 20th century decorative elements consisted mainly of painted backdrops, but since then three-dimensional sets have become the norm, which require larger stage and storage space
For many centuries the opera house has served as an important social meeting place where members of the audience would talk, eat and drink in the opera hall during the performance. In the 19th century the public area began to be expanded with the introduction of palatial halls, stairways and foyer areas - a well-known example of this is the old Palais Garnier opera in Paris. In the Oslo Opera House the box office, cloakrooms, serving locations and mingling areas account for over one quarter of the total floor area of the building, which can accommodate up to 2,000 visitors.
OPERAHOUSE - THE BUILDING AND ITS SURROUNDINGS From keeping the early opera houses hidden in the palaces of the nobility or behind modest facades in narrow streets, in the 19th century resplendent, free-standing opera buildings began to be built as symbols of the city and the nation. These venues gave performances of spoken theatre, ballet and opera – just as the Norwegian National Theatre does here in Oslo.
The Sydney Opera House in Australia was completed in the 1970s and has since become world famous for its iconic architecture and harbourside location. Inspired by this building, several visually striking opera houses have been built on large sites with open spaces in waterfront locations. Oslo Opera House has followed this trend, but distinguishes itself in that the “open space” is located on the roof of the building.
In the building with an overall area of almost 40,000 square metres there are more than 1,000 rooms, among them rooms for rehearsal and work as well as workshops for the stage designers, costume makers and carpenters. These functionally designed administration and production rooms of the opera are in the eastern part of the building with a view inland. The beige DLW Linoleum Marmorette forms in the tailors’ workshop a subdued background for the colourful costumes. In other areas you can also find DLW Vinyl Favorite in ash crome.
In 2007, Poltrona Frau executed 1,800 seats designed by Snøhetta to the new opera house in Oslo. Its design blends Scandinavian style with exclusive comfort. The Norwegian studio chose custom-made wenge-tinted oak and bright orange, 100 percent mohair velvet. A screen fitted into the seat back displays the lines of the libretto during performances. The main auditorium posed a number of functional challenges: the floor had a double recline, both vertical and lateral, and the entire design had a semicircle layout. For the multipurpose hall, which features a floor with mobile steps, Poltrona Frau created a different type of seat with a more lightweight design and an open side made with a wire-drawn aluminium structure.