The whole area surrounding the new, a-lab designed Statoil Regional and International Offices used to be Oslo’s central airport. In fact, many of the airport’s building still stand, even if they’ve been repurposed. But this is a new construction, a shining stack of office spaces on the site of what used to be a parking lot. So when the architects describe their conundrum of designing a large office building and “making it blend with Fornebu’s idyllic shoreline” I sort of wonder how idyllic the parking lot really was compared to the outstanding new spaces the architects have created.
Of course, the building does not blend in very much. The five rectilinear volumes that make up the architectural composition are instead stacked to create dramatic cantilevers and interstitial spaces that house public functions in the project’s interior. Here, in this space between the five bars of offices, the skin of the building is stretched in taught compound curves that minimize the surface area of the enclosure. It’s not an insignificant or merely formal gesture in a region with chilly winters and more than abundant snowfall. And even when the project’s aluminum skin reflects the light of the surrounding snow (as it does in these photos by Ivan Brodey and a-lab employee Luis Fonseca) the dark glass and straight lines of the project stands out.
So no, the project doesn’t blend in, but I’m a little skeptical that blending in was ever a goal of the architects, let alone a good idea. From the outside, the massing is exciting and handome. Meanwhile, the interior of the project provides warm, bright spaces for some 2500 employees. And it just looks badass. So the architects win, regardless.