WE NEED TO ACT NOW TO SAVE ONE OF OSLO’S MOST IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL MODERNIST BUILDINGS
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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;
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.”
‘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’
Make your views known and your voices heard:
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/
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/