Architecture of Norway - History - 20th Century Architecture - Mass Residential Architecture

Mass Residential Architecture

Changing demographics and a growing social awareness led to increased political and architectural interest in providing cost-effective, sanitary, and comfortable residential space to the growing urban population in general and the working class in particular. This was known as boligsaken ("the housing cause") in Norwegian popular culture and continues to play a role to this day.

Architecture became a tool for and manifestation of social policy, with architects and politicians determining just what features were adequate for the intended residents of housing projects. As late as in 1922, there were many who felt that working-class families had no need for their own bath; apartments and small houses only included a small kitchen and one or two rooms.

Before World War II, a number of cooperative investment projects known as "egne hjem" (roughly "our own homes") resulted in a handful of developments, but after the war these gave way to cooperative organizations that were formed to finance and build large-scale residential complexes. The largest-- Oslo Bolig og Sparelag, known as OBOS-- built its first complex Etterstad in Oslo, but there were similar initiatives throughout the country. These co-ops set standards for housing, hired architects to design solutions, and contracted to have them built. Entire sections, known as drabantbyer - or "satellite cities" - were built in the outskirts of major cities. The first of these - Lambertseter - introduced an entirely new phenomenon in the eastern areas of Oslo such as in Groruddalen, but similar areas also emerged in Bergen, Trondheim, and other cities. The apex of this trend was reached in 1966 with the massive buildings in Ammerudlia.

This era—which had spent most of its force by the mid-1970s—led to an increased awareness of the physical and emotional needs of city dwellers. Some of the issues under debate were.

  • Kitchen - traditional Norwegian homes combined the family room and kitchen, but in early apartment buildings, small, so-called "laboratory kitchens" were popular. Over time, eat-in-kitchens took their place.
  • Natural light--large apartment buildings were oriented to provide sunlight to the residents, ideally orienting the kitchen toward the east to get the morning light and the living room to the west for evening light.
  • Privacy--providing separate sleeping quarters for parents and children, and among children led to larger apartments over time. Similarly, most buildings had a limited number of apartments adjoining each staircase.
  • Alienation - monolithic, homogenous apartment complexes reinforced what some characterized as "social democracy's hell."

The perceived shortcomings of the mass housing movement led to efforts to create cost-effective housing solutions that were more varied, more integrated with natural surroundings, and above all more customized to families' needs. In 1973, the Parliament of Norway recommended a shift toward small residential houses rather than large apartment buildings. The Norwegian State Housing Bank (Husbanken) provided citizens with the ability to fund construction of their homes, and an entire construction industry formed to build these needs.

As a result of the pioneering efforts by Olav Selvaag and others, archaic and otherwise unnecessary restrictions were relaxed, improving opportunities for more Norwegians to build housing to suit their individual needs and preferences. Norwegians often undertake home improvement projects on their own, and many have built most of their own homes.

Read more about this topic:  Architecture Of Norway, History, 20th Century Architecture

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