Built in 1969 and decorated with murals by Pablo Picasso and Carl Nesjar, Oslo’s Y-Block is a jewel in Norway’s International Modernism’s crown. And, yet, it’s due to be demolished imminently. The local community is incensed with activists, including Norway’s top architects, chaining themselves to the building in hope of saving it.

protestors holding red signs with letter Y

Image Adrian Bugge ©

Oslo’s Y-Block building is located in the central square of Regjeringskvartalet, the Government quarter of Oslo. On the 28th of April, in the midst of COVID-19’s stranglehold of the news cycle, Oslo’s highly respected former head of planning and building organization, Ellen De Vibe, chained herself to the front of the building. Together with other activists, she was arrested.

view of y block and library

‘before’ Image Bjorn Erik Pederson CC BY SA 3.0

view now beyond a wall

May 2020 Image Adrian Bugge ©

Designed by Norwegian architect, Erling Viksjø, the Y-Block, is a clear example of Modernism in practice. It features murals both inside and on the facade by Carl Nesjar and Pablo Picasso, as well as the concrete casting technique called Naturbetong. Used in the construction it also served to enhance the Picasso and Nesjar murals, especially the piece entitled ‘The Fisherman’ found on the front of the at-risk Y-Block.


boarding up the Y Block Oslo
prepping for distruction boarding up

Images Adrian Bugge ©

“Naturbetong was an exciting new material, which opened up so many possibilities.” Explains architect Bjarne Asp, “the sandblasted concrete surfaces is recognised as significant to Picasso’s contribution. This material is the material bond that wedded together Norwegian artist, Carl Nesjar and Picasso, who collaborated for more than 17 years.  The integration of art through Naturbetong proves its unique contribution to Norwegian design and International Modernism. Only one other building in the world, the House of Architects, Barcelona, has this form of integrated art by Picasso and Nesjar in public space.”

The Y-block was a later addition to the original 1958 ‘Highrise’ building. The proposed demolition will save the H-block but, destroy the Y-block. Local activists believe that partial destruction of the complex discredits the integrity of the whole project.



Image Mar Viksjø Grøstad ©


stone surface

Image Adrian Bugge ©


Many find it especially frustrating because the building was very nearly saved almost a decade ago when it was almost granted protected status by the Directorate of Cultural Heritage in 2011. That year will be remembered in Oslo for the cataclysmic moment terrorist Anders Breivik wrought havoc on the city by bombing the Government district before heading to Utøya Island. Miraculously, regardless of its close proximity to the car-bomb attack, the Y-block and H-block remained structurally sound. However, the listing of the building was paused. Eventually, it was decided the H-block would remain and the Y-block would be demolished.


activist looking at details of picasso mural oslo

Image Bjarne Asp ©

Local resident Kelsey Matheson contacted Greyscape because he ‘doesn’t want to see a strong symbol destroyed.’

Mar Viksjø Grøstad, the Granddaughter of Y-Block architect Erling Viksjø. Mari sent Greyscape this message as told to Kelsey. It’s a heartfelt expression to all activists who care about the preservation of important buildings;

Thank you so much much for your help
This is a scandal of international proportions!
The building is seconds away from being demolished by the Norwegian Government!
The Y-block has NO structural damage!!
The media has wanted to document the interior but has been denied access to the building.
Only the family was granted a visit, only a  few days before the demolition was about to start.
Please help us save this unique building, which has been listed by Europa Nostra as one of the 7 most endangered heritage sites in Europe.
Mari Viksjø Grøstad (Granddaughter of Erling Viksjo)
Y Block protests Oslo

Image: Adrian Bugge ©

Asp adds, “’It’s unique qualities in the context of Norwegian architecture has drawn local and international campaigners to urge the government to halt the demolition plans before a gross error is made. This is more than a building, it is a monument to a moment and a world-class collaboration. Tearing down a building with such exceptional architectonic, artistic, historical and symbolic value is wrong in so many ways.”


interior by lifts of Y-Block

Image Mar Viksjø Grøstad ©

Oslo-based photographer, Adrian Bugge specialises in urban development, the environment and documentary photography. He has created the dedicated yblokkfoto.no blog which has become an important resource and photo-record of the protests and activity at the site. He explains,  
‘With increasing international interest in new Norwegian architecture, I think that many around the world will be appalled and puzzled that my country is on the one hand creating, and on the other hand demolishing, regardless of the documented opposition of all the leading accademic communities.
The Y-block, arguably the countrys’ most important late-modernist building, is a unique example of the collaboration between a renowned Norwegian architect, the country’s then leading artist and Pablo Picasso himself. The art is not used solely for decoration, it is an intergral part of a the spirit of the building.  In sum, it speaks to the visions of modern Norway. To lose it would be tragic’
y shaped block from above

Bjarne Asp ©

Make your views known and your voices heard:

Sign the Change.org petition:  https://www.change.org/p/norwegian-government-save-oslo-s-y-block-with-murals-by-picasso?fbclid=IwAR20uJwgb8Adw8Kq4QCU_fp5iNAa1K7-STh6qizVdRAHR8suPo3C5WPL4es

Read this about why the Y-Block sits in the top seven at-risk buildings in the world; Europanostra http://7mostendangered.eu/sites/y-block-government-quarter-oslo-norway-2/


flowers in memory y block


looking at mural beyond fenced off area

Images Adrian Bugge ©

Find Bjarne Asp on Instagram www.instagram.com/artmorepons/

Find Kelsey Matheson on Instagram www.instagram/kelseymatheson/  

Find Adrian on Instagram www.instagram.com/adrianbugge/

Follow Adrian Bugge’s Y-Blokk blog https://www.yblokkfoto.no/om-yblokkfoto

and his other work https://www.adrianbugge.no/

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