Covering some 38.500 sq m, the Oslo Opera House is a huge architectural complex with one auditorium seating 1360 and another for 400, for a total cost of 500 million Euros.
Designed as an all-encompassing cultural and arts centre for theatre, music and ballet, the facility houses production, performance and promotion capabilities under one roof thanks to an architecture that is both civic symbol and local landmark. The key feature of its immediate urban surrounds, the building’s waterfront position denotes openness to the world. A highly original contemporary architecture statement, it proudly proclaims its function as monument.
Designed by architecture practice Snøhetta, the complex accommodates the public and production functions in two joined yet distinct structures. The prism architecture of the public areas is accessible externally at all levels. A ramp runs from the roof right down to a forecourt that slopes right to the water’s edge.
The production side of the Opera House lies behind the public structure and is, in contrast, a compact, closed rectangular block with an inner court. It houses all back stage activities - from dressing rooms to carpentry workshops - that employ around 600 people from 50 different professions. Although joined, the two parts of the whole are clearly distinguishable, the performance component visibly hooked on to the front of the production block.
Inside, foyer and auditorium are both homely and majestic at the same time. The stunning, curved central structure in the foyer is lined with cone shaped segments of american white oak. The staircase to the upper galleries is also in the same wood as are the corridor walls, again lined with the same decorative wood strips. The walls and balconies of the classic horseshoe-shaped auditorium are in warm coloured, richly veined wood.
Back in the foyer, a series of obliquely angled white structural pillars follow the curve of the central wall. The enormous volume of the foyer is heightened by an immense glazed façade whose ultra-slender structural steel frame gives it more the appearance of a vast picture window. Looking out over the city and waterfront, its transparency is an invitation to proximity with the rest of the city.
Outside, forecourt and ramps are paved with white Italian marble.
The wide expanse of brilliant stone, set in a staggered pattern of polished and bush-hammered slabs, affirms the building’s civic monument status. Likewise, the aluminium panel cladding of the external walls of the production block create huge luminous expanses, enhancing the theatrical contrast between concave and convex elements that pierce the structure.