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Oslo’s New Deichman Library

The new Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo
Photo: Jiri Havran / Kultur- og idrettsbygg

Oslo has a new addition to its growing collection of modern architecture. The new Deichman Library at Bjørvika is another modern building sure to split opinion.

Norway has an ambition to create innovative and modern forms of architecture. In Oslo in particular, it's rare to see two new buildings that look exactly the same. There seems to be a common quest to design buildings that not only catch the eye but also blend in effortlessly into their surroundings.

The latest building attempting to strive for that balance is the new Deichman library. It joins other ambitious waterfront projects in the city, including the Barcode buildings, the Opera House and the soon to open (2021) National Museum.

The new library at Bjørvika has certainly raised a few eyebrows since it sprung up. While loved by some, the sharp design and reduction in the number of books have caused some controversy. One would expect that for a total building cost of 2.5 billion kroner. Now, let's take a closer look…

An impressive new addition to Oslo’s waterfront

Oslo city’s continued drive to make use of the waterfront shows no signs of slowing. The latest addition to the ‘Fjord City' renewal project is the new Deichman Library. Located in the Bjørvika part of the city (just across the road from the iconic Opera House), it's another architectural masterpiece.

The exterior of the new library is reminiscent of several books stacked on top of one another. The top tier is displaced, jutting outward, just like a book in a stack.

Read more: Fun Facts about Oslo

This type of facade has been designed to ‘announce its presence to visitors', according to the team behind the project. The building certainly challenges the onlooker to make sense of the unnatural structure before them.

New library at night

For a different perspective, take a visit to the building at night when it's illuminated. Many aspects of the building have been carefully planned to evoke feelings in those that either gaze upward or approach the building on foot.

Inside the building

The city's new public library is expected to welcome over two million visitors each year, and with a floor space of 19,600-square-foot floor space, there is plenty room and things for them to explore.

Read more: The Future Norwegian Library

That space is spread across six floors. As well as a lot of books, there will be some cleverly designed reading and study places. The building is so different from other libraries, not least because it also has a cinema hall, gaming zone, workshops and a sleek-looking restaurant, all designed to bring the public inside.

The design

Situated across the road from Oslo’s Opera House, the new Deichman Library has been designed with its surroundings in mind. From the outside, it fits in well with its new neighbours, most noticeably the Barcode buildings and the Opera House, and looks sure to become one of the city's iconic buildings.

The Bjørvika part of the capital feels fresh and innovative, full of buildings that state an ambition for growth and progress in the capital. And not only does the Deichman building fit in with this ambition, it's more than its outer looks, it also boasts impressive functionality inside too.

Deichman Bjørvika Photo Erik Thallaug-2
Photo credit: Erik Thallaug

The library building adds to the growing portfolios of Lund Hagem and Atelier architecture firms.

Mixing new structures with older, established buildings requires a consideration of the surroundings of both nature and existing buildings. Using the right materials is also vital in order to succeed with a design. Hagem’s projects seem to strike the right balance with each new build.

The delay in opening

Originally scheduled for 2016, the original opening of the new library was delayed by a major water leak. Then came the announcement that it would open in March 2020, but the global health crisis put an end to that. Of course, no ambitious, new build ever seems to escape a delay during construction and the new library is no different in that respect.

Finally, the grand opening is on the horizon and 10 years of planning can finally come to fruition. On June 18, 2020, Oslo’s new Deichman Library will swing open its doors for for the very first time and welcome book lovers, locals and tourists alike.

Replacing the old

Deichman is the body the runs all public libraries in the municipality of Oslo,  a collection of 22 buildings in total. It's also Norway's oldest public library, dating back to 1785. The agency says it has something for all types of readers and a range of facilities that goes far beyond the world of books.

Children participate in a pre-opening event at the new Oslo library
Children participate in a pre-opening event (held before the event restrictions of 2020). Photo: Visit OSLO/Didrick Stenersen

The new building at Bjørvika, replaces the city’s public library at Hammersborg. The old building has been in the St Hanshaugen district of Oslo since 1933. The books from the old building have already been transferred to their new home in preparation for the grand opening. Local schoolchildren even helped with transfer of some of the books, carrying them on foot between the two venues.

One criticism of the new Deichman library is that it holds significantly less books than the previous venue. That being said, digital collections have been improved. The old books that won’t fit in the new venue will either be transferred to other libraries in the country, sold or given away.

The opening ceremony

On Thursday 18 June, there will be a short ceremony to mark the its official opening. The ceremony is a closed one, but you can enjoy the festivities from the comfort of your own home with a live Facebook stream of the event.

The Deichman library will be open from 10:00 – 20:00 on weekdays, 10:00 – 18:00 on Saturdays but it will be closed on Sundays.

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About the Author: Mathew Paul Gundersen

Mathew is an English – part Norwegian – guy living in Oslo, where he is a master's student in Ibsen Studies at the University of Oslo. In June 2019, he graduated with a bachelor degree in English Literature from the University of Buckingham. Mathew is also a writer, an English teacher, media specialist and general Norway enthusiast. His Great Grandfather was Norwegian and this is what brought about an initial move to Norway and Stavanger in 2016. Mathew's personal blog can be found here: godfoten.wordpress.com.

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