To many, Scandinavian design means simplicity, minimalism and functionality, a certain Swedish furniture store being the prime example. But these days Scandinavian design is about far more than a cheap chest of drawers, for Scandinavia is starting to make a splash in the architecture world.
Oslo's Storting (Parliament) awarded Snøhetta, a Norwegian design firm, the contract to design a new opera house to kick-off the regeneration of the run-down Bjørvika area of the city. It took four years to build and opened in 2007.
Presenting, the award-winning Oslo Operahuset:
The striking angular design, somewhere between a glacier, ski slope and a ship coming in to dock, connects the city to its people in spectacular fashion. The roof rises out of the water allowing Oslo's residents and visitors the ability to walk all over it. The Italian marble, white granite and glass structure shimmers beautifully in the summer sun, imposing yet inviting.
With such a memorable design and views across the city and the fjord, you might forget there's an opera house underneath you. But you don't get the chance, as regular free concerts are held on the roof.
What's terrific about the opera house is not just the connection between the city, its culture and its people, it's how Snøhetta were able to put the essence of both Oslo and Norway at the very core of its design. That's something missing in a lot of contemporary architecture these days (Bullring Selfridges and the new Library of Birmingham anyone?)
It's no wonder the design has won awards. So far it's picked up the 2008 culture award at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona and the 2009 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture (Mies van der Rohe award).