To define the context of the project, we have to go back to its roots, back in 2003, when a consortium uniting 3 firms, MVRDV (NL) - a-lab (NO) - Dark architects (NO) won the competition for a megaproject; Oslo’s new waterfront development along Bjørvika with the design of the “BJØRVIKA BARCODE” for Oslo S Utvikling (OSU).
a-lab built the first building of the master-plan, the Oslo Headquarters of PricewaterhouseCoopers – PWC in 2009. With construction already underway, a-lab has undertaken a second project within the original masterplan.
This project is part of the headquarters of Norwegian financial institution DnB NOR developed by OSU; a cluster of 3 buildings in the Barcode, with an approximated built area of 70,000 m2 (750,000 sq ft) above ground. Each building is designed by one member of the original winning consortium: MVRDV is responsible for the A-building, Dark the C-building and a-lab the B-building. The completion is scheduled for January 2014.
The barcode master plan offers very specific constrains and limitations for the building. Its footprint is restrained to an allocated strip of 21m x105m (69ft x 345ft) with a maximum height of 54m (175ft). A-lab’s part of the DNB project consists of a mixed-use building of 15 stories: 8 floors of DnB NOR offices, topped with housing units, in a total of 22.000 m2 (237,000 sq ft).
While offering flexible office spaces, the design optimizes the view and outdoor space for the housing units that get organized around a raised covered garden. The planning of the office levels allows different combinations of layouts, from open-office pools to clustered office cells - the possibility of variation for circulation guarantees an optimized use of space within the different solutions, as well as the best working conditions that adhere to the strict Norwegian regulations for the working environment.
Contrasting with the enveloped “machine” underneath, the housing units rest on 1,000 m2 of common open areas, a garden/terrace elevated from the street level. With its panoramic elevator and open bridges, this green foyer acts as a buffer that every resident crosses.
One of the interesting aspects of the design are the apartments opening in both ends to terraces overlooking the Oslo Fjord to the south or the cityscape towards the north and east, the covered garden, raising the environmental standards and the living qualities in the new city waterfront. The housing area only facing the long facades was removed, creating the garden and adding two more “inner facades”. These give the opportunity to open an extra window to the outside garden and to the views of the Fjord or the city - Oslo being relatively low-rise.
A section the two first levels was also chunked out to allow for both the planed public passage through all Barcode buildings, as well as the entrance to the housing units - connecting them directly to Oslo Central Station and the city’s central arteries.
The pragmatic/idealistic duality between the nature of the office levels and the residential levels, gives the building its unique character. The facade composition is an interpretation of this duality, planed for optimal daylight exposure and environmental performance. Taking the body analogy, the materiality of the building can be analyzed through the visible deconstruction of its mass, revealing its analogy to the anatomical layering of skin, muscle and bone. The outer layer is natural white marble, standing for the initial “untouched” shape. The removed volumes reveal the Norwegian wood, representing the muscle, and the covered garden opening cuts though the core of the building, exposes its ‘bone’ structure made of steel.