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H20 Oslo National Opera House competition entry

Out of 236 schemes entered, 20 were selected to be exhibited at the Art Gallery Antonella Nicola in Turin, Italy. The exhibition was held between the 24 - 28 November 2000. Michael Morrisey, aged 33, from h2o workshops in Sydney was one of the entrants selected for the exhibition, the only Australian/NZ. Others selected to be exhibited in Turin include Arup, Botta, Rogers, Fuchs and Snohetta. If you are interested in knowing more or would like a picture ... I can be contacted on the email address listed below. Attached is a couple of pics of the model.  

The brief
was for a opera house consisting of two theatres and many associated workshops and administrative offices.

The site is on the water's edge in the centre of the Oslo, Norway.
It has a long history of seaport activities reaching back to the vikings


The H20 Design Statement
I thought that a large building would be unsuitable because it would create a barrier between the land and the harbour. The central idea was to put the majority of the building below the ground level with the building's entries and restaurants above the ground in all-glazed, layered structures.

There are two skins, a transparent blue internal skin and a clear external skin. The roof of the main building at ground level is covered by a large reflection pool (which would freeze over in winter). The 'back stage' areas are below ground level, set around a large courtyard providing natural light to all working areas.

It's a design inspired by the qualities of ice and objects frozen in ice. Like icebergs, 7/8 of the iceberg is under water with what remains above eroded and melted away. The two theatres are objects caught in time, in the ice.


Many of the ideas generating the design were more about emotional re-conditioning than scultptural form. Like the Sydney Opera House I was trying to remove the theatre goer out of the ordinary world into another world. A world of theatre, make believe ... fantasy ... through spatial manipulation to create emotional flux. At the Sydney Opera House, Uzton's idea was to create a large wide flight of stairs which you proceed up to a higher plain above the real world. A physical rise generating an emotional rise.

The building takes people along a long thin processional walk towards the open fiord, through 15 metre high layered glass structures
, flanked by water on both sides. The route then dives under the water into another world of large caverns carved out of the ice. The two theatres are exposed in the melted ice.

The site is very different from that of the Sydney Opera House. In Sydney, the Opera House is part of an ensemble of structures. The house is out on the end of a peninsula away from the city. However, the Oslo site was in the centre of the bay with the city behind it. I wanted people on the shore to see through the building to the fiord beyond and not to block the connection. Instead of large blank walls the design hid the big volumes and expressed the public areas as "phantom viking boats" formed of glass, floating on the surface.

Mike Morrisey

[this statement has been edited by zebra]


related links:

Norwegian government site
Norway Post
Winning Architects Sn°hetta

zebra architecture links ©  2001   last revised 17.02.01