Director, Armed Forces Museums
Leader, Norwegian Home Front Museum
The fortress must be filled with more activity than today.
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
In the heart of Oslo city lies an invaluable cultural-historical treasure. The inner part of Akershus Fortress includes medieval castles, Renaissance architecture and younger military installations. The area reflects 700 years of Norwegian and Scandinavian history.
The fortress, with its enormous time depth and central location, is an underutilized cultural monument. Against the backdrop of the castle’s stone walls, we can convey the nation’s history and illustrate the basis for Norwegian democracy today. And we can promote, but also problematize, Norwegian values.
We can activate the castle on Akersneset in the service of public information – and preferably also the public debate. We can open up the impregnable fortress for Oslo’s inhabitants, school classes from all over the country and tourists from far and near.
In this way, we can use the buildings of the past to reflect on the society we live in. We can make the fortress – and the history it carries – relevant.
The history of Norway
It is with this motivation that we in the Armed Forces’ museums have prepared the feasibility study «Akershus Fortress as a cultural destination». The richly illustrated document, available in digital version at akershusfestning.info, describes how the fortress area can bring Norwegian history to life.
Equally important: The feasibility study also shows how the public can bring the fortress to life.
The story of Akershus Fortress is the story of Norway. Our task and ambition is to tell this story in the best possible way. We hope and believe that local and national politicians want the same.
If the fortress is to be revived, people must choose to use it. The fortress must be filled with more activity than today.
We want to make the inner Akershus Fortress an attraction, whether you want to go to a museum or just enjoy a walk in fantastic historical surroundings
The area will still be available free of charge for recreation. We want to arrange for various dining options within the fortress walls, where the public can have a better dinner or just a cup of coffee. We want to make the inner Akershus fortress an attraction, whether you want to go to a museum or just enjoy a walk in fantastic historical surroundings.
We are neither the first nor the only ones who think along these lines. In 2018, the Oslo City Council requested that the City Council take «initiative towards the Government to begin a long-term and gradual work for increased city life at Akershus Fortress». The result was presented to City Councilor Hanna Marcussen (MDG) on 21 January, in the form of the report «Increased city life at Akershus Fortress», mentioned in Aftenposten on 21 January.
This report, to which we have also contributed, can be regarded as a joint statement from the defense sector, which owns and uses the fortress today, and Oslo Municipality. The latter has since the “fjord town decision” in 2000 systematically worked to open the capital to the sea.
The Armed Forces normally emphasizes the protection of their areas and today uses parts of the inner fortress for school activities. They have joined the municipality’s desire to open the area more offensively to the public.
The National Heritage Board, which is to protect the cultural heritage value of historic buildings, has enthusiastically given its support in principle. The same applies to Forsvarsbygg’s cultural heritage section and Oslo’s city antiquities.
Such an unusual agreement between different agencies and interests is based primarily on three factors:
Firstly, Akershus Fortress is today perceived as uninviting, despite the fact that anyone can enter the gates.
Secondly, there is a common recognition that Akersneset’s cultural heritage values are unique in the Norwegian context and should be exposed in their full breadth.
3. Third, our proposals presuppose deep respect for the historical building mass and military significance of the fortress, as well as the continuation of its ceremonial functions.
Positive ripple effects
Also from an urban development perspective, an activation of Akershus Fortress is absolutely necessary. Today, the fortress breaks the connection between Pipervika and Bjørvika – two downtown areas in rapid development. A revitalized fortress can build a bridge between these areas and will have positive ripple effects for Kvadraturen as well.
A common thread in our feasibility study is to revitalize old buildings
Akersneset, the fortress and the quarters behind can today be perceived as obstacles that must be forced. They will act as a link. The axis of cultural offerings from the Opera, the Deichman Library and the Munch Museum in the east to the new National Museum and the Astrup Fearnley collections in the west will be completed.
A common thread in our feasibility study is to revitalize old buildings. No new structures will tower over the Oslo Fjord’s water level. This is both cost-saving, good climate policy and above all worthy of cultural protection.
Perhaps our most costly proposal is to rebuild the shelters under the fortress. Today, these house a car park. Here we want a reception area and exhibition rooms, as well as access to what will be Akershus Fortress Museum.
A national boost
The puzzle pieces can be laid in other ways than we have done. There are undoubtedly solutions we have not thought of. We are also aware that this project is not free. It will be a national boost and will require the support of both Oslo’s politicians and national authorities to be realized.
Good political decisions require sufficient information. We want the estimates in the feasibility study “Akershus Fortress as a cultural destination” and the report “Increased city life at Akershus Fortress” to be followed up by a thorough analysis. It should reveal opportunities and costs associated with a revitalization of Oslo, and possibly the nation’s most densely populated cultural heritage area.
We do not expect realization without sword blows. What we can promise is that no one needs to brace themselves for exhausting rounds of localization debate and countless column meters with criticism of architectural solutions.
The fortress is located where it does, and the design is given. The first contribution to design came in 1299, when the country was ruled by Håkon V Magnusson.
Will draw one million more visitors to Akershus Fortress
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