Saturday, 1 January 2011

Made in Norway – Norwegian architecture today

The book “Made in Norway – Norwegian architecture today” was recently published by Birkhäuser and it presents itself as a collection of the best, or the more photogenic at least, projects of the last few years in Norway or by Norwegian architects.

Starting with the title, Made in Norway would have been enough and open enough to incorporate what is presented in the book. The attached “Norwegian architecture today” is ambiguous and misleading as it is to talk about any “national” architectural style nowadays for several reasons: 1- if by Norwegian it was meant projects built in Norway then the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nepal from Kristin Jarmund for example shouldn’t have been included; 2- if by Norwegian it was meant projects designed by Norwegian architects, then the Knut Hamsun Centre by Steven Holl shouldn’t have been included; 3- nowadays, people and information travel faster than ever, so it’s nearly impossible to talk about a “national” architecture since behind the big names of the offices there’s a large amount of people from all over the world or with educations from abroad which necessarily influence the projects making them “un-national”; 4- there’s little, if anything, in common in all the projects presented, neither formal, constructive, material nor conceptually speaking.

In the globalized and more or less democratic world of today it makes little sense to discuss “national” architecture. The discussion of today should be centered in architecture as a discipline and in its capacity to relate with the local society and to answer people’s needs (in terms of economics, politics, environment, etc) and less in the country where some architect was born. For these reasons, Made in Norway (which can incorporate designed or built) would have been the most appropriated title.
Otherwise, the book makes up a nice introduction to some of the more mediatic buildings designed or built in Norway. The projects presented include different programs (museums, schools, houses, parks, embassies, bridges, etc.) from different architects like Steven Holl, Kristin Jarmund, Sverre Fehn, Helen & Hard, Reiulf Ramstad, Snøhetta, etc. More interesting than the pictures themselves are a collection of texts, interviews and essays that help to give an understanding on how the different offices get to the different results in Norway.