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Design Ecosystem in Oslo

Gianmarco Caprio

Writer and editor at Phase with a fondness for photography, typography, design and travel.

Oslo: Norway’s Picture-Perfect Capital</em>


Oslo, the modern capital of Norway, is a gem for lovers of modern architecture and design. The Nordic country has been at the forefront of innovation in both those fields—and it shows. Whoever had the pleasure of visiting the city has been awestruck by its abundant displays of tasteful, playful, yet timeless and elegant design and architecture.

As far as Europe is concerned, Oslo is really ahead of the game. Most cities in the Old Continent are known for their beautiful old towns and historic landmarks—the Norwegian capital is not, as very little of Oslo is “old”. This characteristic has allowed it to not be limited in its pursue of modernity, and its futuristic vision has surely been fulfilled.

Norway: Firmly Looking Forward


The capital city of Norway is also Europe’s fastest-growing. The city—which up until the discovery of oil in the section of the North Sea under its sovereignty in the late 1960s was by no means rich, especially compared to neighbouring countries such as Denmark or Sweden—has completely changed its face in recent decades.

If before the oil it was the Norwegians who flocked to neighbouring Sweden in search of a better life, it is now the Swedes who go to Norway to earn more than what they would back home.

Not even the financial crisis of 2008 could halt Norway’s oil-fuelled economic boom. So, accordingly, Oslo—and the rest of Norway, for that matter—didn’t stop developing.

People in Norway, just like those in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland, are proud of their Nordic heritage and they tend to integrate such heritage in their design output. One classic example of that is the work of Neue Design Studio, one of Norway’s most prolific and iconic design agencies. The studio made headlines when they were tasked with designing Norway’s new passports. The result embodies everything Norwegian (and by extent, Nordic)—simple, beautifully executed, and, above all, inspired by Norway’s natural landscape. Even though it has been revealed several years ago, passports bearing the new design have been issued only since last month.

Another example of a future classic is the design for Norway’s new banknotes by multidisciplinary design-cum-architecture studio, Snøhetta.

The State of Design in Oslo


While Denmark and Sweden have been (and are still) leading the way when it comes to simple, minimalistic, quintessentially Nordic design, Norway definitely can hold a candle to both those countries.

If we were to make a distinction between Norway’s design output and that of both Sweden and Denmark, it would have to be that Norway’s population tends to be less urbanised, and therefore be more in contact with nature. In this regard, Norway is closer to fellow Nordic country Finland, which while culturally and linguistically not related to Norway still has many similarities with it, in addition to sharing a more or less common Nordic identity.

The lasting success of minimalistic design from Scandinavia has determined that Oslo, and more broadly Norway, become a key player in the arena, proving to be a force to be reckoned with.

When one thinks of the Norwegian capital, the connection to one of its most famous buildings is almost inevitable—the building in question is the Oslo Opera House, completed in 2008. This is the biggest cultural building project carried out in the Nordic country since 1300, when the famous Nidarosdomen was erected in Trondheim. Once again, this project bares the signature of multidisciplinary studio, Snøhetta.

Similarly to its Sydney equivalent, the Oslo Opera House has come to symbolise the country’s forward-looking attitude, while also standing as a emblem for Norway’s wealth and progress, a phenomenon which hasn’t slowed down ever since the oil discoveries of the late 1960s.

Design Education in Oslo


For those thinking about relocating to Oslo in pursuit of an education in the design, architecture or other creatives fields, there are numerous opportunities. Despite having a population just short of 700.000 people, this city offers many institutions where obtain an education in the creative fields.

These include both traditional university-level institutions, as well as less conventional schools.

Worth mentioning first is The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (Arkitektur- og designhøgskolen i Oslo), known as AHO in short. This independent institution was established right after the end of World War II to allow architecture students who could not complete their degree due to the war outbreak to do so.

Nowadays, it is the most important institution in the country offering an education in design and architecture, and hosts students not only from Norway but from all over the world. It is worth mentioning that AHO offers only Master degree programmes, in addition to PhD. You can check all the programmes currently offered over at this page.

Aside from AHO, the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo), or KHIO, established in 1996 by merging all the major arts academies operating in the city. It is comprised of the several different academies which united to give rise to KHIO - Dance, Opera, Theatre, Design, Art and Craft and Fine Art.

Additionally, the Oslo Metropolitan University (known as the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences prior to 2018), or, as it’s most-often styled, Oslomet, offers programmes in many design fields at its Faculty of Technology, Art and Design. It is the youngest of all Norwegian universities.

Where to Work Remotely


Despite its relatively small size, Oslo offers a pretty wide choice of establishments where one can enjoy a coffee while spending countless hours in front of a laptop undisturbed. Oslo is a student city at its core, and what would a student city be without countless cafés and bars… ?

Among the local favourites are places like Sentralen (in Kvadraturen, not far from the city’s main thoroughfare, Karl Johans gate), MESH (which also offers a coworking space) and Fluglen.

Being a modern city and all, Oslo also caters to those who prefer co-working spaces, which are all the craze right now. Some of most talked about names are the afore-mentioned MESH (Tordenskiolds gate 2), 657 Oslo (Fredensborgveien) and the ever-present WeWork, which in Oslo has set up its space on the popular Tjuvholmen allé.





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