fbpx 60 616 Friction & Fire - On Oslo waterfront | The Oslo School of Architecture and Design


Start semester

60 616 Friction & Fire - On Oslo waterfront

Full course name in Norwegian Bokmål: 
Friction & Fire - On Oslo waterfront
Course code: 
60 616
Level of study: 
Teaching semester: 
2020 Spring
Assessment semester: 
2020 Spring
Language of instruction: 
Maximum number of students: 
Person in charge
Gro Bonesmo
Halvor Weider Ellefsen
Required prerequisite knowledge

Completed 3 year cycle.

Course content

The studio focus on the development of a large scale architectural project and civic buidling on one of three possible sites along Oslo's Fjord City.  

After two decades in the making, the "Fjord City," describing Oslo extensive harbor front and its different development projects, has established itself as a brand and destination in the city. Framed by its extensive recreative promenade and “cultural axis” of high-profile culture institutions within iconic buildings, the area is on the verge of becoming almost a caricature of turn of the century harbor fronts of the European City.

In spite of the obvious qualities and spectacle of the fjord the waterfront development provides the city’s population, we can’t help but wonder whether this effective but rather generic vision of leisure, recreation and exclusive housing is the ultimate answer to the 21st century city’s challenges...

However, the Fjord City is not complete: Several areas and plots are yet to be developed, and here lays an opportunity to explore a different side of city commons and civic architecture, based on other parameters for success than exposure, iconicity or symbolic value.  This studio explores these spaces of opportunity, aiming towards developing architectural projects that in form, organization and program provide added value for the city, seen in context of the geographic and ecological context of the blue green harborfront and the Oslo fjord landscape. 

The studio obtains a holistic approach to urban development based on the city’s actual needs, and rooted in the existing resources, potential synergies and incentives of a selection of three strategic sites along the fjord. Here, the studio will explore how new and innovative architectural interventions can improve the Fjord City’s performance – beyond leisure.  

The studio will focus on developing robust, multi-purpose civic building structures and facilities for the city. Possible projects includes the design of Oslo's new fire-station and the transformation of industrial facilities of Filipstad. The emphasis lays on combining public facilities and urban infrastructure with new commons. Such commons can include new indoor and outdoor public facilities and services that utilizes the harbor front's and fjord landscape's inherent but yet unrevealed potential.

The course aims to articulate large and complex but precise architectural proposals that can contribute to broaden and shed light on possible futures for the “Fjord City”, and present alternative strategies for urban development of the area. The studio will both maintain an approach that discuss and develop the area autonomously within the studio framework, while simultaneously being informed from the events and development processes of the actual sites and involved actors.

Additionally, the Studio has a "Sibling Studio" from ETSAB Barcelona, working with architecture in a complex urban context in Oslo. The studio will visit Oslo and AHO in January, while we will conduct a study trip to Barcelona and visit ETSAB in march. 




Learning outcome

The studio trains students to develop and design large scale architecture within dense, complex and often contested urban environments. Students will learn to utilize mapping tools to gather, interpret and translate the different historical, political, economic, cultural and ecological layers of the city and distill them into clear and legible architectural schemes. 

The studio focus on developing design-strategies through combining hands on, in-situ knowledge of site and context with curated discussions on specific architectural problems to be specified in the course curruculum.

Ultimatly, the learning outcome of the studio is to equip student of architecture with the tools and knowledge to design high performance buildings with added vaule for the urban realm, and to develop the skills that empowers architects to take active, leading roles in how urban space is developed and shaped. 

Finally, the studio teachers beileves that the production of knowledge of an architectural studio inherently is a collective venture, and expect course participants to take active part in course discussions.   

Working and learning activities

Main tools:

The studio's main working tool is large scale physical models, where architectural design are explored and discussed throughout the semester.  

The methodology of the studio is based on four main topics:

·         The Oslo context, its current development strategies -and patterns, the Norwegian building industry, and historical and current takes on large scale housing in Oslo.

·         Emphasis on large scale architecture, and its role within urban planning and development. 

·         Analysis of the sites and possible infrastructural and morphological futures for the area.  

·         Analysis of large scale architectural reference projects and organization principles. 

Presentations and reviews:

·         Main presentations  vary in length and content, from shorter group work assignments to individual project development critiques. Main presentations are compulsory.

·         Pin ups are group sessions of 4 students or teams, two teachers and 15 minute presentations. 

·         Des-crits in studio takes place weekly and/or on demand

Phases and progress

The Studio is divided in five phases that adress specific aspects of the design process, supported by a curated curriculum of texts and documents addressing particular arhcitectural problems and challenges in context of working with complex urban environments. 

The first phase is initiated by a "first take" workshop that develops spatial and programmatic "claims" for the sites, where we conceptualize and explore the site through massing studies, and discuss the morphological and programmatic interfaces between architecture and city. What densities, what typologies, what kind of distribution? And what kind of spaces, programs, infrastructure and their distribution should be can be applied to create added value for the city? 

The second phase of the studio will relate to the site and the Oslo context, including discussions with relevant developers and a representative from Oslo´s building authorities, namely Andreas Vaa Berman, head of area development in PBE (Oslo's buidling  We will discuss the quality and profile of current strategies for downtown development, conducting a due diligence of the properties and discuss first responses from the individual students. Are there morphological, phenomenological, programmatic or typological features of particular interest in site and adjacent areas? And are there alternative narratives to the current mode of development defining Oslo’s central areas?

The third phase includes the study trip, where we visit and study harbor front development, strategic planning and  architecture in Barcelona, and conduct sessions of disciplinary exchange and discussions with teachers and students at the Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona.

The fourth phase will focus on articulating a coherent architectural project within an individual specific framework and approach, the development of a limited selection of drawings, and a model in 1:200/1:500 of the student projects, along with a project description addressing a relevant problem or topic related to the work produced. 

The fifth and final phase is related to representation and mediation of the individual projects in an exhibition, as well as the studio as a whole.


Curriculum: Tba.


Course responsible is Professor Gro Bonesmo. Gro is partner of Space Group, educated at Columbia University NY, with substantial knowledge and experience of architectural and urban development in  Oslo.

Associate professor Halvor Weider Ellefsen has a master from the School of Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and a PhD in harbor front developments from AHO. Halvor is a trained architect with experience from different, practices, as well as a researcher and academic at the Instiute of urbanism and landscape.     


Form of assessmentGroupingGrading scaleComment
Portfolio assessment (Vurderingsmappe)IndividualPass / fail
Form of assessment:Portfolio assessment (Vurderingsmappe)
Grading scale:Pass / fail