As one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, Oslo, Norway is undergoing dramatic change. New growth in the city responds to the demands of densification as well as ambitious new climate policy and a renewed focus on our natural resources. Most visible has been the development of Oslo’s former industrial harbor, Bjørvika, from shipbuilding and cargo industry to recreation and urban life. The residential tower “Vestbygget” forms part of “Eufemias plass,” a new residential and commercial quarter in Oslo’s Bjørvika district along the new harbor promenade. The roof garden forms part of the outdoor space for the new residences.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has seen drastic changes to how we live our everyday lives. The closing of public buildings and offices, as well as recreation areas and fitness facilities has made the health focus of Vestbygget even more relevant. With most people working from home, there is even more of a strain on the physical and mental health of residents of a dense city. Quality and safe public spaces are therefore even more essential than before to the overall well-being of urban dwellers. The positive impact of the training roof at Vestbygget has been well documented and recently featured in Norwegian media.
Utilization of roofs as recreational spaces does not have a long history in Norway but is becoming increasingly important as Oslo densifies. Vestbygget’s “fifth facade” responds to both the need for biodiversity and rainwater management, as well as a new awareness for public health and a shift in how we use public space. Ten years ago, it would not have been common to exercise in public spaces in Norway, where many felt they were “too on display”. Today this mentality has shifted and Oslo’s public spaces are now developed with a focus on public health. Exercise as a main design element at Vestbygget encourages residents to live an active lifestyle as well as making health easily accessible.
Vestbygget’s roof garden is created for residents who live an active life, but also for enjoying the views of the Oslo fjord and Oslo’s emerging roof landscape. The garden is 70m long and only 13m wide and provides ventilation for the building via 13 air towers as well as lifts and stairwells. As a result, it was important to create clear rooms such that the roof is experienced as one unit rather than residual spaces. Material and color use, along with vegetation and furnishings, are planned so that the building’s architecture works harmoniously with the roof landscape. Parts of the roof use a blue athletic surface, as a reference to the proximity to the sea and sky, with a white graphic that creates zones for exercise, meeting and movement. A 60-meter running track connects different spaces together along the roof’s length and can be used for exercise. Equipment for strength training and stretching are placed in different zones, so that residents exercise and meet with the best views of the city.
Native vegetation creates different volumes on the roof terrace, using native species to the Norwegian flora and contributing to local biodiversity. The planting palette takes inspiration from the islands of the Oslo fjord, which can be viewed from the roof terrace. Robust materials, equipment and furniture have been used with distinctive design and high quality.
A focus on the physical and mental health of the residents combined with a smart distribution of space in response to technical infrastructure as well as has created the conditions for Vestbygget’s design. Vestbygget is unique in the roof landscape of Bjørvika and the garden has become the identity of the building.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: A-lab (architect), Vedal (building contractor), Skaaret (landscape contractor)
Project location: Oslo, Norway
Design year: 2016-2019
Year Built: 2019-2020