The corona crisis has given landscape architects greater social responsibility. It should be included in the architecture discussion.
This is the topic of discussion. Opinions expressed in the text are at the author’s expense.
Much has been written about the quality of new architecture in Oslo recently. The criticism is that the buildings are too disgusting and boring, the use of materials is very poor, and the new buildings lack color.
Everything from local architects and Danish experts to developers criticize or advocate for the choices that are made. It is very positive that there is an open discussion about the quality of what is being built in Oslo at a time when the city is developing so much.
But so far there has been an error in the debate, which is often common in architectural discussions: that is, it focuses only on (constructing) architecture as things without context—that is, without landscape architecture and public space.
More obvious in the past year
Many of the entries in the discussion highlight important issues, such as what is being built now is of poor quality, often with a focus on new areas such as Ensjø and Løren. But when pictures of Main Street are shown in Lorraine, I do not interact with the buildings, but towards the quality of public spaces – our common area.
Bare, vegetated asphalt streets that meet dead floors do not provide an opportunity to create life in these newly developed areas. This became especially evident in the past year. Community lockdowns and strict infection control rules have emphasized the importance of good public spaces and local environments.
Gathering at a distance in the garden, exercising outdoors, or walking for a break from the four walls of the house is now more important to everyone – physically and mentally. We are less in the center and more in our neighbourhoods. The outdoor space should be viewed as a locally operated joint venture.
Very successful landscape
On Aftenposten, I recently read an article by journalist Hilde Lundgaard in which two architects came up with a list of ten “could live with” projects in Oslo. Eight of the buildings highlighted were built before the year 2000. Here, landscape architects should take a bigger place in the debate! Because in Oslo, a lot of successful landscapes have been developed in recent years.
Examples include Bjørvika with its playground and fountain at Stasjonsallmenningen (SLA), or the newer extension of the harbor park (Grindaker). Landscape architects also helped make new areas of the city accessible for the first time – such as Trettenparken in Filipstad (Bjørbekk and Lindheim).
Otherwise, in areas where people are overcrowded and need it most, new landscape architecture contributes to the creation of new meeting places, for example Sørli Stadium in Tween (Studio Oslo landscape architects).
These places are filled with people on weekdays and weekends alike and contribute to the colour, biodiversity and free activity of the entire city.
Ensjø is a much discussed area as a result of its architectural appeal. In September 2020, Aftenposten commentator Therese Sollien wrote that “If Grünerløkka was built today, it would look like Ensjø”. She claims that Olaf Ray’s, Birclunden, and other green areas that make the area so popular, were not there.
Greater social responsibility
But Ensjø is a hit because of the continuous park space along the newly opened Hovinbekken and the squares that open towards it (Bjørbekk and Lindheim).
This has resulted in the creation of many diverse public spaces that bring life to life every day. Just go there at 4pm to be convinced!
The neighborhood you live in has gained an even more important position in the Corona crisis. The fact that so many lived life at the local level led to a new discovery for the local community. With this come new opportunities to make small changes at the neighborhood scale, which can be of great importance to the counties.
Landscape architects have been given greater social responsibility. It should be included in the architecture discussion.
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