Agraff was honored to take part in the design of Torvet (meaning town square), Trondheim’s common salon, where hundreds of people stop by every day. Torvet houses everything offered by city- and folklife, from large-scale events like coronations via festivals to street music. The main challenge lay in designing a flexible and functional city space suited to such varied functions, ranging from formal to informal, from festive to more mundane, which also connected seamlessly with its surroundings. This task required all our resources in the field of complex urbanistic design.
The overarching idea was to divide the area into zones, with a furnished pedestrian zone circling the open plaza. The outer furnished zone stretches along the walls of the adjacent buildings, allowing for street side food and drink service from cafes and restaurants. The next layer is an open pedestrian zone, followed by a final zone at the heart of the plaza, furnished with attached seating and tables. Here one can enjoy a break or quick meal in the attached chairs and tables, surrounded by plant boxes, while enjoying the detail richness of Torvet.
In addition to dividing the space into zones, below key aspects have been the cornerstones of the design process and the end result.
Stringent yet elegant
We selected a few but strong elements to give a clear and enjoyable framework for activities taking place. The strategic placing of furniture created a neat impression, which also contributes to the overall robust and elegant design and feel of the space.
The material selection, for example using a lot of slate and plants, creates a calm and warm atmosphere at the outdoor cafes and other seating areas.
In regard to flexibility for utilizing the space for different activities, Torvet is flat and easily accessible to its nature. This is also part of the design thinking to provide a predictable accessibility for all users. Furniture and other components are placed to fit simultaneous events taking place. Thus, the square can be used for both planned events and spontaneous activities without much preparation in advance.
The square has been made with the idea that it will last for 100 years. To achieve this, selecting durable, solid and robust material was inevitable. This is observable with slate on the ground and furniture in granite. The patterns on the slate ground tiles are inspired by Trøndersk tapestry tradition which adds value by connecting the dots of relatability and history.
An important guideline for the new design was preserving the legacy of the city plan created by Johan Caspar de Cicignon, a 17th century local city planner. His city plan is strongly associated with Torvet as the most central urban space in Trondheim. The result was a stringent and neat design with durable materials in line with the ideas of the former city plan, but at the same time adapted to fit the contexts of modern-day life.
If one has some idle time, Torvet has several sublime features to discover and appreciate, minor components that makes repeat visits exciting. This may be the patterns decorating the water grates on the ground or the hydrant engraved with the river course of Nidelva. Close cooperation with the stonemasons of the Restoration Workshop yielded fascinating details on the stone benches. The slate ground tiles are patterned in a fashion similar to traditional Norwegian weaving, and they take on different sheens according to weather conditions and season. The design creates atmosphere, conveys solidity and takes inspiration from Trondheim’s unique historical heritage. Experiencing the city’s primary public plaza combines a sense of familiarity with the delight of novelty.
Torvet brings to mind the lively, buzzing public plazas associated with southern Europe, while retaining traits typical to Norwegian city esthetics. The design and on-site follow-up associated with a project of this magnitude demands an understanding of city space and the inner workings of the city, pertaining to functionality, dynamics, maintenance, details and infrastructure. Previously Torvet was experienced as a space for cars and busses or just as a room for passing through. Torvet today has transformed into a place for engaging social activities. It is now a square providing its citizens a new gathering point and as well strengthening the city center’s role as an important place for trading.
Agraff was tasked with preliminary project design and detailing. Torvet was opened by the mayor of Trondheim during the summer of 2020, and it was awarded the Landscape Architecture Award given out by Association of Norwegian Landscape Architects the same year.
Project location: Trondheim, Norway
Design year: 2015-2018
Year Built: 2018-2020