Read Thomas Thiis-Evensen’s article on architecture.
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.
Architecture cannot save the world, but it can make the world a better place to be. Solving life functions is important, as are physical functions. Because it doesn’t help if a building is never that “beautiful”, if it leaks from the roof.
But the functions also have an expressive power that can beautify you, and thus the richer life to live. Like the fact that our most important vital functions are expressed in the architecture that underwent expression of its use.
Which way? Interpreting usage with images drawn from our own world of experience. The representation, that is, the building. It seems on a motive that we recognize, or by abstraction in the sense that it is associated with a motive that we recognize. Between the two are sliding transitions.
It is particularly important to emphasize this general recognizability in our communal buildings, which house key political and cultural functions of society, such as town halls, museums, churches, and sports facilities. They should be used by many, regardless of their background and social experience, and should be immediately perceived as a sign of their purpose and that they are important, expressed by their location.
An extreme example of pictorial architecture is the pavilions of the Bomarzo park in Italy. They were erected in the late Renaissance as an expression of the hidden and mythical forces of nature represented as angry faces. Windows are staring eyes. The door is an open mouth roaring sound waves shaped like a ladder.
Maybe we are scared. Because there is not a moment of doubt about the message.
The same goes for the Viking ship in Hamar, which represents only one ship. It is taken out to the shore of Lake Mjøsa and jumped into storage with the bow spears on the ground. What does this have to do with function? It is true that the helmet draws an oval, perfect for ice skating. But equally important, it represents where you are by the water between the curving hills. And at the same time a motif of the petroglyphs that was the pictogram of the Winter Games.
This is what we immediately saw in the jury, despite the fact that the architect denied it and insisted that the idea was simply to create “a taut volume that balances two points”. Perhaps a good illustration of the saying that the last person you should ask about what a shape should express is the artist himself.
Before it is a boat. Hence the name.
The associated architecture refers to the basic directions it emphasizes. These are immediately experienced with archetypal content that we recognize from our own bodily experiences in packing with gravity and natural phenomena.
Three examples. One vertical going up, you will always emphasize that at the top is more important than what is at the bottom, where you start. One diagonal the sinking shape, on the other hand, will always emphasize the ground against which it falls.
And a concave the form will always seem receptive, because it opens up to what is outside.
Thus the content of the vertical, the concave and the diagonal is repeated throughout history.
But dressed in very different styles and functions that refer to equally different social ideas, the same content should emphasize.
Vertical and concave
The tower and spire of Christian architecture point to heaven where the power of God reigns. The verticals and pointed arches of the Gothic express the same thing: the upward eye contact that gives hope of protection. The tower’s strength is also Le Corbusier’s theme in the 1955 Notre-Dame du Haut church. It stands at the entrance and resists a sloping concrete roof that threatens to collapse.
The sky-facing content also has the minarets and triumphal columns of Rome and Paris. The people in power at the top look down on us and we should look up to them. That is the rhetoric of triumph: we are dominated. Like the high-rise buildings in Chicago with the headquarters on top, there are also images of the power of capital. They compete to build the tallest.
Oslo’s city hall from the 1930s also has a tower. Not just one, but two, which are the same. We recognize them as two large-format gates that, seen from the city, welcome the fjord, and from the entrance they welcome the city.
And in the city, the welcome continues with the concave place of Fridtjof Nansen. Guests are greeted from the sea and locked directly in the center.
Just like St. Peter’s oval square in Rome, which is surrounded by two rows of embracing columns. The rows of pillars “- like two outstretched arms, will receive all believers.” (Architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini). And from there, guide them directly under the dome of the tallest tower made by Michelangelo, the Diagonal.
In Norway, the use of the diagonal with its earthy content has become Snøhetta’s signature. Alexandra’s round library falls obliquely to the ground like an image of the most important symbol of Egyptian iconography: the solar disk that in its orbit descends below the horizon.
And off the coast of Lindesnes, a closed pot leans towards an underwater restaurant. Fasten the catwalk to one side, as a tie-down that can also tilt it upward.
What about the leaning opera in Bjørvika?
What does it have to do with the opera function? Nothing, if with opera one is only associated with Wagner’s violent tonal waves. The Opera is an interpretation of its place, of the beach on which it is located at the end of the bay. But it is a Norwegian beach, covered in white ice floes that slide out of the water and spin together.
An image that the Italian Bonvicini instantly understood with her slanted glass sculpture that floats like pieces of ice in the sea towards the entrance.
Now the Opera also has a friend on land. Featuring the new Deichman Library, designed by architects Lund Hagem and nominated this year for the Oslo City Architecture Prize.
Like a cube of crystalline glass, it is tilted in the direction of the Opera to point to the connector. In the middle of the sloping surface, you enter under a canopy, recognized as one of the most used symbols of monumentality in history. The canopy is huge. It is marked along the edge of smaller blocks that move outward and down toward the corner, and held up with waves at the bottom. Everything is associated with a glacier split during dissolution.
Do we see anything else? With the privilege of spectator, and with reference to the spokesperson above, I also see books and bookshelves. Not through the glass to the central room with its galleries, which sweeps the sky, but on the facades.
The floors are stacked on top of each other like separate “shelves”, and the closely spaced verticals of the windows are like rows of narrow “book spines.”
This is how architecture is associated with both its place and its use, both expressed in reasons that we recognize.