A new architecture project completed and unveiled last week is a story of big aspirations, taking chances and self-belief. A small London based practice won a competition in 2009 to design and build two cultural buildings in the town of Bodø, Northern Norway. DRDH architects, whose only previous experience had been an office extension in Sheffield, won the contract of one of the largest municipal building projects in Norway.
The £110 million library and concert hall are located in Bodø, a peninsula on the coastline of Northern Norway, in the region of Salten, above the Artic circle. This sea-view town is a collaboration of 13th century churches and post-war architecture that blends with the functionality of the fishing and whaling precinct.
These newly designed cultural buildings may be considered a symbol of Bodø entering a new era, this scheme being part of a wider attempt to lure people north of the Artic circle, re-balancing Norway’s bottom-heaving cultural tourism; aiming to be an innovative meeting place for knowledge and cultural experiences. This contract was a leap in scale for both DRDH architects and the town of Bodø itself, with the end results proving a hit with the 20% of the towns 50,000 population who arrived for the grand opening.
The stark white concrete design of Norway’s newest library, christened Stormen, has a uniquely beautiful view. With its colonnade of slender ribs expanding across the floor to ceiling glass facing that looks out onto the fishing huts and boats that litter the harbour and the pink streaked sky that glistens across the Artic waters. Both minimalist and clean, the design takes full advantage of the beautiful sea-view providing a unique waterside cultural experience.
The designers worked hard to make sure these buildings integrated into the town as much as possible, all the while standing proud as buildings of heritage and culture. The Stormen building’s back of house meets the town with a street like frontage, blending into the town’s structure, with sections of polished concrete used to provide a pearly sheen to the new age building, while elsewhere a matte texture is used to mimic the houses nearby.
The designers aim was to create a subtle urban ensemble that enhances its neighbours. The roofline picks up the nearby mountain ranges, the parapets and windows echo in the white concrete facades, layered towards the harbour, ranging from warm gold to pale blue in the Artic light.
The concert hall is designed similar to Stormen, in a fresh, modern structure, built with a generous grand staircase. This multi-faceted building is to be the new home for the recently created Arctic Philharmonic. Developed with the support of Arup acoustic engineers as a 2 in 1 structure, this concert hall has the capability to be both a proscenium theatre and a full symphonic hall.
Both buildings hold a clean Scandinavian style that took lessons from the grain of the town rather than striking out as a new age eyesore. These two buildings aim to be the first intellectual spark to ignite the cultural passion within Northern Norway; making Bodø a place of arts and learning, with modern resources, breath-taking sights and a humble yet innovative design that both aids and highlights the already established architecture around them.
Aimed to be the feathered peak in Norway’s cultural hat, DRDH architects proved that with enough hard work and self-belief and regardless of appropriate experience, large scale creative, new generational architecture might be designed and completed on time and within a budget.
How important is blending modern, new-age design into established architectural work?