Oslo Journal: Modern Waterfront Library Opens Next to Opera House

New Deichman Bjorvika Central Library (left) on Oslo Waterfront close to the Oslo Opera House (right) (photo Einar Aslaksen)By Ron Bernthal

The library of the future has finally opened. Located between Oslo Central Station and the Oslo Opera House, the new Deichman Bjørvika Central Library is now part of the city’s 235 year history of the public library in Norway’s capital city. Designed by the Oslo-based studio Atelier Oslo and Lundhagem Architects, the group won the international competition to design the library in 2009.

Stretching over six floors and about 145,000 square-feet, the building will house over 450,000 books, and offer lots of meeting spaces, learning rooms, and lots of activities for adults and children. Visitors can watch movies, learn to make podcasts, take piano lessons, use 3D printers, enjoy the view of the Oslo Fjord, or just admire the architecture and design of Lundhagem and Atelier Oslo.

In early 2020 about 1,000 Norwegian schoolchildren moved 6,000 books from the 1930’s-era Deichman library to the new Deichman Bjørvika. With colourful rucksacks full of children’s books on their backs, the children filled the streets of central Oslo and brought the library’s new building to life with cheering and dancing. The original plan was to open Deichman Bjørvika to the public on March 28th 2020. However, Covid-19 and the national lockdown in March put a stop to that. After a successful country lockdown eased the Covid-19 crisis, however, Library Director Skansen was able to open the building’s doors to the public on June 18, 2020, just three months from the original date.

Deichman Bjørvika , interior space (photo Erik Thallaug)

“We are looking forward to letting this house fill with people. Opening a building such as this in Oslo is a great event. Finally the people of Oslo and visitors can come to us and start using the library. We are looking forward to show people this building which we are so proud of. I think everyone in Oslo will be proud themselves because this is after all their building”, said Skansen.

Deichman Bjørvika’s ambition is to host two million visitors each year — in a Covid-free situation. Among the safety measures regarding infection control is a temporary limit on the number of visitors who can be present in the library at the same time: 1,000, compared to the usual limit of 3,000. This restriction has been determined after consultations with local infection control authorities.

[caption id="attachment_5876" align="alignnone" width="5368"] Deichman Bjørvika interior (photo Jo Straube)

“The library is a very special place,” said Governing Mayor Raymond Johansen.
“It’s an open door to the world of literature. An open door to a meeting place across history, class, gender, and age. The new Deichman library has been built on one of the best plots in Oslo and that shows that we as a society and as a city prioritize culture. That we prioritize people and that we prioritize meeting places that are open for everyone.”

The artwork BRAINSTORM by Lars Ø Ramberg inside the library. The artwork took over three years to produce. The result is a gigantic piece of conceptual art, comprising over 1,200 feet of handmade glass (photo CF-Wesenberg)

The area around the inlet of Bjørvika east of the city centre has been completely transformed. Around the year 2000 this area was known for a major highway junction and a container port. Today, the highway is gone and the containers have been replaced with design-savvy residential and mixed-used buildings. Bjørvika Barcode is now a vibrant district with fascinating architecture and great outdoor spaces.

One of the modern buildings in the Barcode district (photo Ron Bernthal)

Bjørvika Barcode consists of twelve narrow high-rise buildings of different heights and widths. The buildings are built with some space in between them, thus jointly resembling a barcode. The Barcode district buildings house leading national and international businesses, and 10,000 people work here on a daily basis. The buildings also contain 400 residential units and a daycare center. On street level, there are many good restaurants, shops, art galleries and other services.

Art galleries and street art, like these metal bicycles, can be found on the streets of the Barcode district, close to the new library. (photo Ron Bernthal)

The Barcode district architecture concept was developed by the Norwegian firms DARK and a-lab, in collaboration with the Dutch agency MVRDV. The “barcode” concept is designed as a geometric system that stands out architecturally. The concept incorporates values such as openness to the fjord, admittance of light and airiness.

Formerly an old container dock, Sørenga has also been transformed into a brand new neigborhood by the Oslo Fjord. The area consists of residential complexes with unique architectural details. A green park with several channels stretches through the whole area. At the southernmost tip you’ll find the Sørenga Seawater Pool, a popular recreational spot for Oslovians in summertime. Several waterfront restaurants offer great food in maritime surroundings.

Visit Oslo

Norwegian: Premium class offers best of both worlds — price and comfort

Norwegian 787-8 Dreamliner (photo courtesy Norwegian)


By Ron Bernthal


The United Nations has listed Norway as the number one country on the organization’s 2015 Human Development Report. Combining life expectancy, education and income per capita, Norway ranks first in the world for the 12th straight year. Add in personal freedom and health and Norway sits at the top of the 2015 Prosperity Index for the seventh year in a row.

Norwegian started operations in 1993, flying domestically along Norway’s rugged west coast and, coincidently, was listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange in 2003, just as Norway began to occupy its top place on the UN list of best countries. Privately owned Norwegian is quite reflective of its country of origin. The mostly Norwegian-born flight crew are friendly and helpful. The Nordic-influenced food served on Norwegian is as fresh and delicious as Oslo’s top restaurants.  The carrier’s fleet of new, Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft helped Norwegian rank as the most fuel efficient airliner in the aerospace industry for 2015, Norway is one of the “greenest” countries in the world in terms of sustainability, and Norwegian’s tail fins are painted with pictures of Nordic heroes (including Swedes, Danes, and Finns) who “have pushed the boundaries, challenged established norms and inspired others,” much like the Norwegian explorers, athletes, writers and artists Roald Amundsen, Sonja Henie, Thor Heyerdahl, Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch and Gustav Vigeland.

Norwegian tail fin with Nordic heroine Sigrid Undset, a Norwegian novelist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928.

A recent flight in Premium class on Norwegian’s non-stop service from New York (JFK) to Oslo (OSL) began with a light buffet dinner in the Korean Air lounge, where several international carriers lease space for their departing business class passengers. The lounge, close to Norwegian’s Gate 4 at JFK’s Terminal 1, is quite large with several food stations, bar service, complimentary WiFi, computers and printers, and private shower rooms.

After tracking boarding times on the lounge departure screen I made my way to the gate and boarded the aircraft at 9:20 pm through Norwegian’s dedicated Premium lane.  The 32 grey, leather Premium seats with the red Norwegian head cloths were arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration and, immediately after stowing my gear in the extra-large overheads I was offered a choice of Champagne, juice or water.  The seats on the aircraft looked and felt brand new, the average age of a Norwegian aircraft is only four years, the Dreamliner windows were devoid of the traditional pull-down shades, little buttons under each window control shading, and Norwegian’s ambient cabin lighting, called Sky Interior, is a relaxing blue and purple, similar to Virgin America’s phased mood lighting. Even the bathrooms on the aircraft had a calming atmosphere, with blue ambient lighting, little colored lights on the sink faucet, and an extremely quiet toilet flush.

Norwegian’s “Sky Interior” cabin lighting in economy class on the Dreamliner (photo courtesy Norwegian)

The onboard dinner that evening was cold pasta and olive salad, baked chicken with spinach and eggplant, dinner rolls and chocolate cake, along with a selection of wines and spirits. New York strip steak, curry prawns and a vegetarian dish was offered on the return flight. Before landing a breakfast was served consisting of a warm bagel with cream cheese and smoked Norwegian salmon, fruit and juice and coffee.  Other flights may include fruit salad, natural yoghurt, honey, muesli and pain au chocolat.  All meals are served in efficient boxes made of re-cycled cardboard, with plates and cutlery inside. It may have been initially disappointing not have a starched table cloth and assorted chinaware placed over the tray table, but with the low prices Norwegian charges for its Premium fares, it was understandable that there had to be some sacrifice.  The cuisine itself was as nicely prepared and tasty as most other airline business class meals.   Economy fares are so low that passengers are more than willing to pay extra for food, pre-ordered before boarding.

Premium seats on Dreamliner aircraft (photo courtesy Norwegian)

The entertainment system in Norwegian’s long-haul Premium class is viewed on a large touch-screen that folds out of the armrest (live TV and free WiFi is offered on flights within Europe), and with a 46” pitch, 19” width seat, and an almost full recline, it was quite easy to get a few hours’ sleep during the night. The thick, blue duvet provided by the flight attendant didn’t hurt either. Norwegian’s on-time performance is usually in the high 80%’s (it was recently eight best out of 50 airlines), on my flight to Oslo wheels were up at 10:25 pm, 25 minutes behind schedule due to departure traffic at JFK, but arrival at Oslo’s Gardermoen airport was at 10:55 am the next morning, five minutes early.

Boarding Norwegian flight at Oslo Airport (photo courtesy Oslo Airport)

In 2015 Norwegian was voted Europe’s Leading Low-Cost Airline at the World Travel Awards, and Best European Low-Cost Airline from Skytrax World Airline Awards.  In Economy class the price difference between Norwegian and other carriers flying the same route is several hundred dollars.  For Premium business class the difference is extraordinary, anywhere from $600 to $4,500 round-trip compared to other airlines flying the same route. And, of course, on most days Norwegian is the only carrier flying non-stop from several American cities (New York, Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Oakland, Los Angeles) to Bergen on Norway’s West Coast, and/or Oslo, Norway’s capital and largest city. The relatively low cost Premium class fares, combined with its high degree of comfort, has not gone unnoticed by budget-conscious corporate travel managers. “We started out as a low-cost carrier for tourists, but 15% of our passengers are now business travelers, and the number is growing,” said Bjorn Kjos, founding co-partner and current CEO of Norwegian.

In April 2017 the new Oslo Airport will be finished. This shows how the inside of Pier North will look in 2017. Rendering Nordic Office of Architecture © Oslo Airport

Norwegian will soon offer 34 non-stop routes from the U.S. (including Las Vegas, San Juan, Baltimore/Washington) to Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, London, and to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.