Back to the future
Oslo was once built entirely of wood. The project chosen to redesign the area around its railway station heralds the return of this traditional building material to the Scandinavian metropolis. A spectacular office tower with an innovative hub is being developed, named Fjordporten.
The history of the Norwegian capital spans around one thousand years. With the exception of churches, castles and around 400 townhouses, medieval Oslo was built from timber. After the Great Fire of 1624, the city was relocated and rebuilt according to Renaissance ideals. From then on, bricks and stone were the preferred choice for construction. But recently, this traditional building material began to be readopted. The trendsetting urban development project Fjordporten at Oslo’s main railway station is a prime example.
Record holders in urban timber construction
When it comes to timber construction, Norway has lately become the world champion. The small town of Brumunddal, 140 kilometres to the north of Oslo, is the site of what is currently the world’s highest timber high-rise, Mjøstårnet. At 85.4 metres high, the special feature of this mixed-use tower is its omission of a concrete core. Although future plyscrapers such as the WoHo in Berlin and The Dutch Mountains in Eindhoven are going to climb even higher into the sky in the near future, they differ from this Norwegian tower because they are planned as hybrid constructions using a combination of timber and concrete. This makes them comparable to only a limited extent.
The new urban development project Fjordporten Oslo S aims to push ahead with sustainable urbanization using timber construction. Back in 2017, Bane NOR Eiendom – a subsidiary of the state railway company – announced an architecture competition. Besides a future-proof building method, the client was looking for a design that would interact with its surroundings and offer good infrastructure to enable further development in the city quarter.
A tree-covered tower
The master plan for “Nordisk Lys” (Nordic Light) by Reiulf Ramstad Architects and C.F. Møller Architects was chosen ahead of designs submitted by renowned architects such as Bjarke Ingels and Christoph Ingenhoven. The winning design has a tree-covered tower with stacked cubes as its fundamental element. At the base of the tower, a pergola made of honeycomb-shaped timber elements connects the high-rise structure with the surrounding public space.
A clear architectural identity and a thorough sustainability profile define the project’s end result.
C.F. Møller Architects
The jury comments: “‘Nordic Light’ takes its strength from a controlled and careful form expression.” Travellers will be offered a new kind of experience and a positive spatial encounter in the hub. The project description by architectural firm C.F. Møller reads: “By combining tradition and innovation, Fjordporten at Oslo central station merges transport, work, leisure time, culture and business into a forward-oriented and robust hub.”
Closed-loop cycle of raw materials
The master plan aims to make a significant contribution towards reviving the district around the listed railway station building. Besides a number of shops and eateries, the development project includes a cultural and conference centre, and also a hotel. The architects explain in their master plan: “The primary aim for Fjordporten is to combine effective traffic logistics with attractive internal and external urban spaces. This is obtained by high architectural quality and streamlined transfers between the various means of transport. A clear architectural identity and a thorough sustainability profile define the project’s end result.”
The building’s materials are a subtle reference to the time when the city was built from wood.
C.F. Møller Architects
Implementing this design is a real constructional challenge. The timber structure of the high-rise is clad with a glass facade that reveals lush vegetation inside and outside the building. The storeys are frequently interrupted by vertical openings where plants serve as “green lungs”. These gigantic winter gardens with a timber spiral staircase will be visible for miles around.
Timber combined with concrete
As a green building, this timber high-rise will be certified according to the UK sustainability assessment method BREEAM. Its focus is on the closed-loop cycle of raw materials and cost evaluation throughout the entire life cycle of the building.
A hybrid design has been chosen as the method of construction, with timber and concrete combined to create the structure. The expansive tower facade is made of high-tech glass, the architects reveal. Their project description explains: “The building’s materials are a subtle reference to the time when the city was built from wood.”
Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Renderings: C.F. Møller Architects
that might interest you
Canada’s megaproject Waterfront Toronto includes a new district called Quayside, an all-electric and climate-neutral community. Its highlights are a two-acre urban forest and the residential Timber House by architect David Adjaye.
The city of San Diego in Southern California has plans for a new district, one that will be entirely void of cars. Known as Neighborhood Next, it must be one of the most radical projects in the USA.
The new urban quarter Zwhatt near Zurich is designed to enable climate-neutral living at affordable prices. One of its buildings is a 75-metre-high timber hybrid tower known as Redwood, whose facade generates solar power.
Architect and biologist Timothée Boitouzet has used nanotechnology to give wood an upgrade. The new material “Woodoo” is translucent, fire-resistant, weatherproof and up to five times stronger than normal wood.
Timber construction can be decidedly high-tech, as illustrated by the head office built for SR Bank in Stavanger, Norway. Bjergsted Financial Park offers workplaces that are fit for the future, and it is among Europe’s largest engineered timber buildings.
So, what does "Noom" actually mean? While Sanzpont [arquitectura] and Pedrajo + Pedrajo Arquitectos don't exactly reveal this, their "Living the Noom" concept is pretty clear: it’s all about a fresh take on housing. With environmental protection and quality of life as a top priority.
HafenCity Hamburg is an urban quarter fit for the future. Its eco cherry on the top is the “Null-Emissionshaus” (Zero Emissions Building), which is completely carbon-neutral – and can be dismantled like a Lego house.
Snøhetta creates high-calibre architecture, including accommodation at high altitudes amidst Norway’s glaciers. The architects have enriched the Tungestølen mountain cabins with a special feeling of hygge.
Apple’s former design head BJ Siegel has developed a concept for a timber modular house. The urban prefab named Juno is designed for mass production – and hopes for success on the scale of the iPhone.
Communal vegetable patches, car sharing and a timber building that overtops many others. Sweden’s largest housing cooperative is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a project called Västerbroplan that shows how people will live in the future.
Bearing the name Tree House Rotterdam, Holland’s new landmark-to-be looks like a gigantic stack of wooden shelves with glass lofts added on top. It aims to take the sustainability of timber high-rises to a new level.
Three tonnes of lettuce and vegetables annually will be farmed on top of the We-House, a timber construction project in Hamburg’s HafenCity. The on-site restaurant serves meals for residents of this sophisticated eco-house at cost price.
The design for the urban office building Saint Denis in Paris shows the potential of parametric design in timber construction. Architect Arthur Mamou-Mani is a luminary in this new discipline, and we were able to meet him online.
Researchers at Cambridge University are helping to turn London’s spectacular vision of a wooden skyscraper into reality. The Oakwood Timber Tower is to rise 300 metres into the sky, almost level with the tallest building in the city.
Self-sufficiency is no longer a dream reserved for downshifters. The modular building system named The Farmhouse designed by Studio Precht allows residents to grow food in big cities.
Homerton College at the University of Cambridge has chosen the design by Alison Brooks Architects for a pavilion that combines modern timber construction with high-tech facilities. It is expected to be a future-facing answer to their needs.
The Swedish university city of Växjö has been named “the Greenest City in Europe”. Half of all its new buildings have been built with timber. But the city plans to go even further.
The Scandinavians have shown their pioneering strength once again, this time in the design for a new cultural centre. The Sara Kulturhus in Sweden’s Skellefteå is among the world’s tallest high-rise structures built entirely from wood.
When it comes to timber construction engineering, the United States has been lagging behind other countries. Ascent Tower in Milwaukee aims to change this. Topping out as the world’s tallest timber tower at a height of 284 feet, the building uses expertise and structural elements from Austria.
As many as 40,000 pieces of wood had to be fitted together for the gift shop in the National Museum of Qatar. The inspiration behind this award-winning interior design was supplied by a miracle of nature in Qatar’s desert.
Canada’s Earth Tower aims to outshine all existing timber high-rise buildings. Its energy concept means that this 40-storey skyscraper in Vancouver will be the world’s tallest passive house.
On the edge of the tropical rainforest in Mexico, a research museum will explore how nature and progress can be reconciled. Known as Xinatli, its sophisticated design takes a fresh look at circular building materials.
The eco-friendly residential project Roots will be the new landmark of Hamburg’s HafenCity and the tallest timber high-rise in Germany. Architect Jan Störmer reveals what its future residents will have in common.
The Danish office 3XN is planning to build North America’s tallest timber office building in Toronto. Called T3 Bayside, the complex will offer more than 500,000 sq. ft. of next-generation office space when completed.
Dutch architectural firm Gaaga has designed a residential building in Eindhoven that is distinctly people- and environment-friendly. Surrounded by trees, it is situated in the middle of a park.
The redevelopment of an above-ground Nazi-era bunker is Hamburg’s largest building project since the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall. With spectacular rooftop gardens and nhow Hamburg design hotel, this new landmark in the heart of the St. Pauli district is sure to become a magnet for visitors.
Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees teamed up to design the Botanical Pavilion – a wooden pavilion that is constructed like a 3D puzzle – without using any kind of glue or screws.
The round construction known as TECLA has created quite a stir. Having teamed up as 3D printing pioneers, WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects have produced the first CO₂-free housing prototype printed entirely from raw earth.
Japanese architectural firm UENOA has created a wooden office that has no need for bearing walls. Folded origami-style, the ceiling construction gives a whole new lightness to cross-laminated timber.
Sustainability is a top priority for the Powerhouse Company. In an interview, partner Stefan Prins explains why this means more than just a careful choice of materials and energy efficiency, and how essential it is to consider all the changes brought about by climate change when building.
The Life Cycle Tower One was the first timber high-rise in Austria and the prototype for a new type of serial construction. CREE founder Hubert Rhomberg explains the green building concept and why we have to learn to think in lifecycles.
Most people looking for a new home with a sustainable design need to have deep pockets. Rotterdam’s Pendrecht district aims to buck this trend courtesy of timber building Valckensteyn, the brainchild of the architects at Powerhouse Company.
In Düsseldorf, The Cradle is gradually taking shape. The timber hybrid office building is being constructed according to circular economy principles, and these will also govern its future use.
The Dutch city of Eindhoven will soon be home to the world’s highest “plyscraper”. The two towers – 100 and 130 metres high and known as the Dutch Mountains – are to set new standards in high-rise timber construction.
An entire residential complex in Berlin-Kreuzberg is to be built out of timber – vertically. With a planned height of almost 100 metres, WoHo is set to be Germany’s tallest timber building.
A mixed-use project in Sweden’s Gothenburg is being crowned by star architect Dorte Mandrup. The jewel in this crown is its use of timber. The new eco construction is intended to become an icon in sustainable urban architecture.
Designed by US architect David Rockwell, built according to WELL Building Standard principles. The Sage Collection by British furniture maker Benchmark is good for humans and the environment.
Swiss urban planning combines prominent architecture with ecological timber construction. Lausanne’s Tilia Tower is setting a high standard in future-proof urban development.
Munich’s Prinz-Eugen-Park is the site of the largest integrated timber settlement in Germany. And that’s not all – the city planners have even more in the pipeline.
Once Europe’s largest freight station, Brussels’ monumental Gare Maritime is now the largest European CLT project. Neutelings Riedijk Architects have transformed the historic structure into a covered district, giving it a sustainable new lease of life using cross-laminated timber.
The plans just unveiled for the new, 180-metre-high timber tower designed for the Sydney-based software giant Atlassian represent a milestone in environmentally friendly construction using this renewable raw material.