Inspired by the skyline of the Italian town San Gimignano, Snøhetta has designed an urban development proposal for the area Kvadraturen in Oslo, Norway. With a series of slim, medium-high towers placed within the backyards of existing buildings, the project aims to bring new life to a slightly forgotten part of the city.
Located behind the medieval castle Akershus Fortress in Oslo, the area Kvadraturen connects the seafront to downtown Oslo and the Central Station.
Following a city fire in 1624, Kvadraturen was identified by King Christian IV as where the new city should arise, and it became a pulsating heart of the city. Today, however, the area is characterized by empty streets and few public functions after business hours.
To revitalize the area, one of the local property owners in the area, Fred. Olsen commissioned Snøhetta to find a solution for bringing people into Kvadraturen. Based on the client’s idea of drawing inspiration from the skyline of San Gimignano, the result became a series of medium-tall and slim towers with public and commercial functions on the lower floors and a residential program with great views on the upper floors.
In this way, the project becomes a strategic city planning tool for bringing residents into an area that today mostly consists of office buildings and not accessible backyards. By bringing more housing into the area, Kvadraturen can once again be filled with people also outside of rush hour.
The slim towers are designed to sculpt a new skyline that blends into the existing area. The buildings’ entrances are pulled back into the courtyards. This is done to create a new layer of architecture that strengthens and revitalizes the historic architecture of the area. The opening up of the courtyards and closed facades invites the public into the courtyards and new green pocket parks.
Focus is put on the social aspect of the streets, including functions such as shops, cafes, and smaller businesses at the street level.
The new building is strategically clad with solar panels to produce enough energy to cover about 60% of the energy need of the new buildings, including energy use for electricity, heating, and cooling.
Another important aspect of revitalizing Kvadraturen is creating inviting entrances to the area. Snøhetta suggests transforming an existing parking lot into a public green entrance. In 2022, Snøhetta developed a design proposal for a public garden on the plot between the Oslo stock exchange building and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, as Oslo’s New Garden.