Vervet in Tromsø is a transformation project that includes outdoor spaces for a new district with 400 new flats and public spaces are developed on the old shipyard site in central Tromsø, Northern Norway. This is where the ships used in the polar expeditions undertaken by Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen amongst other explores, were maintained and prepared for the polar expeditions. 

“Tromsø Skipsverft was the city of Tromsø’s first industrial workplace when it was established in Skansegata 1 in 1848. 

When Roald Amundsen planned his expedition towards the Northwest Passage, he bought the yacht “Gjøa” in Tromsø and the shipyard was given the task of strengthening the vessel. In the book “Northwest Passage” from 1907, Amundsen wrote: “Most of that work was carried out at Tromsø Shipyard, and I owe the shipyard my greatest recognition for the exceptionally conscientious way in which everything was done.” This is just one of many examples of the vital role the shipyard played in Norway’s proud polar history.”(from Vervet website: last boat was repaired here as late as in 2018.

The challenge in the project was to preserve the industrial heritage of the old shipyard and narrative of the polar expeditions while at the same time accommodating for new public functions as well as access and contact with the sea as important for the place’s history and future identity. In the landscape project, the site’s industrial history informs both the pattern language, the materiality and urban space furnishing. 

The project includes a public park into the tidal zone, a public plaza branching out into a seafront promenade. The park, Verftsparken and the plaza, Slipptorget, together form the largest public urban space and encircle the old slipways. On the square the old workshop building is preserved, and transformed into a restaurant, the Maskinverkstedet. The square itself has a paving referencing the drift-ice of the polar sea where many of the boats being repaired here were heading. The pattern is made by big sheets of Corten steel “drifting” in an ocean of cobble stones. On some of the steel sheets the names of all the boats recorded in the shipyard are cut out to connect with the industrial history. The plaza is aligned with sitting steps, an amfi, that can both form a venue for performances and concerts but also serve as sun-facing, generous wind sheltered sitting areas.

Both old slipways are preserved – one as pure cultural heritage, while the other is adapted as urban furniture with wooden decking, tidal gardens and play facilities. In this way, both people and nature are invited into these old industrial structures and contribute to further develop the story they tell. The 2 slipway wagons are locked in permanent positions defined by water levels marking the old historic coastline and the predicted 100 years seal level projected rise. In this way they reference both the historic past and the future.

Along the seafront promenade there is a simple linear structure with plantings and benches facing the fjord and the vies. The benches are imprinted with images from the polar expeditions in the concrete surface.

All public areas are universally accessible, and custom made visual and tactile markings have been prepared for the project. 

The proves leading to the final design involves close collaboration with a very ambitious client, Vervet AS, as well as the architects designing the buildings, LPO.

There has been a strong sense of walking in the same direction from all partners of the process. This has been vital to the realization of all the qualities of the place as it stands today. People of Tromsø have really embraced this new part of the city and it has become the talk of the town – a place to visit to enjoy the view, have a coffee in the sun or a good meal at one of the seafront restaurants or just enjoy the view from one of the polar history benches. There is room for play by the sea but also for slow Sunday walks along the seafront promenade.

The project has reused a number of historical elements from the shipyard that was on the site until 2018.

Stormwater is handled locally/discharged into the sea. Natural meadows and tidal gardens will help to increase biological diversity in the area and help restore a tidal zone after many years of industry here. The area includes cultural monuments of

both national and regional value with the remains of an old shipyard as well as contact with a fortress from the Middle Ages.

Architecture offices involved in the design: LPO

Location: Skansegata 9, 9008 Tromsø, Norway

Design year: 2017- still ongoing

Year Completed: 2023

Photos: Totaleiendom and Lo:Le


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