SC - Oslo Meeting IFHP Working Party MILU

Short description: 

MILU Working Party Oslo
6-8 June 2001 Oslo - Sweden


The programme is structured around 4 major topics:

  • Changing harbour related functions into city related functions and the options a MILU strategy can provide for which the Bjørvika Area was the focus (A).
  • Building above a railway station, the opportunity, the costs, and how a MILU strategy can help out. Here also the Bjørvika Area was the object of study (B).
  • Designing the process of commissioning public an private parties, contributing financially and functionally to realise a MILU strategy (C).
  • What spatial programs can be combined in a MILU strategy and under what circumstances is an intensive monofunctional strategy the only option. When and how multifunctional, when and how intensive monofunctional? (H).


  • The Bjørvika case: Changing harbour related function into city-related functions and building above and around a railway station?
  • Cases "Skøyen" and "Nydalen": Process design; how can public and private parties work together financially and functionally?
  • Case Groruddalen Valley: When a multifunctional and when a mono-functional intensive strategy?


Harbour Area
Bjørvika Area and the Groruddalen Valley in Oslo were the studycase areas.  The central theme however was the development of the proces architecture in which public and private partners were to work together.  The report contains reference cases from Sweden (Götenborg waterfront), Spain, Portugal (waterfront) and the Netherlands  Harbour Area of Amsterdam).



English Final Report (2001-June 6-8 MILU OSLO.pdf; 2,5 MB)



SUBGROUP 1:  The Bjørvika case
Changing harbour related functions into city related functions, together with group B: Building above railway stations.

On the background of the presentation of the planning project in the Bjørvika area in Oslo and related projects of revitalization of the waterfront in Amsterdam, Göteborg, Lisbon, Barcelona, Melbourne and other cities, the group discussed points of evaluations and intervention criteria related to the MILU-strategy.

Due to the comparison of the Bjørvika case and the other presented cases it became clear that we dealt with different needs for reclaiming and revitalizing the waterfront.
A main reason for the other-then-Oslo cases was the urge for more space for dwellings. Even though there is also a need for more housing in Oslo, the project of the Bjørvika area is not driven specifically by the lack of space elsewhere in the city. It’s a common urban redevelopment project.

The reclaiming of the waterfront is of great significance for any city in order to find or re-define its identity. Especially when a reclaimed waterfront is connected to the city centre. Such a crucial project is a priority for both, the planning authorities and the politicians.

Conclusions for the Bjørvika area
It seems that the high density ambition for the Bjørvika area is not legitimate in view of the abundantly available space in other parts of the city. That makes it more important to argue in terms of quality ambitions.

Although Bjørvika is the location for the new Oslo Opera house a planned building of high architectural value. An one-eyed-focus on the Opera can do much harm. If Bjørvika will acquire the public popularity as planned on the drawing boards, the prime planning attention should emphasize the connection to the city; to the diversity of functions and its quality of the public space. At this planning stadium, it seems that Bjørvika provides far too less public spaces and functions nor does it link effectively enough the city to the waterfront; the Opera house figures to much as an isolated monolith. At the same time, Bjørvika doesn’t have as many high quality old buildings or monuments that could perform quality functions, as is often the case in other harbour cities – an aspect which again stresses the importance of a high quality standards in terms of architecture and design of public spaces and attractions.

In view of the crucial (physical) connection of the Bjørvika waterfront area to the city centre the subgroup stressed the importance of the following guidelines:

  • Make public functions that generate movements of the public. Walking area’s, bicycle paths, (public) transportation connections, green spaces, situate a embarkation point of the ferry to the islands in the fjord in this area’s etc. No connections means that the waterfront will be a dead point in the city.
  • Create public spaces first (cities derive their identity from the character of their public spaces).
  • Make visual attractive sight lines.
  • Give more access to water (both, to the fjord and the Alna river).
  • Create new city spaces over the railway station (Oslo central-station, which has an important entrance function to the Bjørvika area). Look more for opportunities and consider the high potencies the area offers, instead of the costs.
  • Don’t focus uniquely on density – it can spoil the future spot.
  • Locate a broad and diverse activity programme in this area.
  • Make sure you provide for day- and night activities to keep the area lively and socially safe.
    It is important to establish certain pull factors. This can be done by creating several attraction points in the city that cause a 24 hours daily activity. The opera by itself is not enough, because it only serves a small group of the society. (not for children/teenagers). It is a closed building that is only opened during the evening. So make a design in which the opera building also can be used as a public space (e.g. relaxing on the roof like in Amsterdam New Metropolis).

In order to develop Bjørvika according to the plan, more than a combination of just physical functions is necessary. Because of the diverse ownership structure and the diversity of interests of the involved partners, the municipality, the railway and harbour authorities and the road administration should join forces in one development corporation. At the same time the politicians should become more involved into the planning process. Bjørvika should be arranged as a stage for the politicians in order to create constant pressure on the developers and of course on themselves as the decision-makers. The “time-issue” is very important. Make the debate public.

  • create a distance between the political sphere and the public debate (e.g. an exhibition about waterfronts at the architectural museum)
  • make more institutional agreements by creating dependable situations between the parties involved

Let politicians carry the idea!
Create pressure, otherwise the process will last “forever”.


SUBGROUP 2: Cases "Skøyen" and "Nydalen"

Designing the process in which several commissioning public and private parties can work together contributing financially and functionally in order to realize a MILU strategy. Cases "Skøyen" and "Nydalen".

Among alternative issues for the discussion the group choose to focus on the current situation in Nydalen: Important elements to emphasize in an agenda for a process for planning and financing of a new access to and from the main road.
"MILU" is considered to be “an attitude” or a mind set; a focus which enables planner to understand and assess a specific planning situation in a more complete way.
In situations of high density, the focus on multi functional land use and roles, and corresponding financial complexity, enforces the planners to ask the right questions on the right time.

For Oslo the focus on MILU is interesting in shaping a missing link between

  • The municipal strategic level, and
  • The project - or local plan.

An example: the Oslo Master plan is a strategic plan. Next to this plan exists a local master plan of the municipality (land use plan). There is a gap between these plans.
A structure plan is needed to fill up the gap.

After some (fruitful) confusions Group C concluded to the following considerations:
Proposed agenda for the program for Nydalen phase II:

  • Who are, or should be, the stakeholders during the process?
  • What are the interdependencies between the stakeholders?
  • What are the interests for each party, - and for yourself?
  • Municipality: Public quality goals must be explicit from the beginning and the intention must be to attract and influence interests of other partners in order to make them co producers in a shared quality ambition.
  • Create and communicate visions or images of the place.
  • Is there enough "common ground" in the different interests?
  • Make a "letter of intent" or other form of agreement about
    • - legal form
    • - program
    • - finance
    • - commercial
    • - time line
    • - maintenance
    • - social plan.
  • Keep the process transparent. If confidentiality is functional to the process agree on exclusion of specific information to specific parties.

There is not a specific kind of process relating to MILU, but iimportant through the whole process is systematic involvement of politicians. This can be achieved by starting the process with inviting them to establish clearly defined goals and creating commitment by forming an alliance with political parties.



When a multifunctional and when a mono-functional intensive strategy?
Case Groruddalen Valley.

The Groruddalen valley, situated 3 -10 km northeast of Oslo city centre is a key residential, industrial holding and distribution area within the Greater Oslo metropolitan area. It is also a major road and rail transportation corridor connecting Oslo Gardermoen International Airport, the Port of Oslo and the city centre with large areas of Norway. The area is characterized by a mix of uses and has been the subject of numerous studies looking into issues such as congestion relief and improved coherence amongst existing land uses.









Main questions being addressed

  • Several road and rail regional transportation corridors run through the Groruddalen valley. The valley has been experiencing steady increases in vehicular traffic, with 50% of all traffic volume being internally generated.
  • The increasing average age of the general population requires a rethink of the existing social and public amenities as well as the organization of land uses. (i.e. the inability to drive directly to individual homes is becoming important - is this a current or anticipated problem?)
  • The valley experiences a climatic inversion layer during cold spells, causing retained periods of poor air quality.
    Current ambient noise levels are considered a problem.
  • The valley contains several older style (1950 - 80) residential neighbourhoods. There is little variation in housing types (i.e. not many opportunities for upgrades in typology.) Some prevailing Le Corbusier architectural precedents are not considered satisfactory.
  • The valley contains 13-14 commercial centres, some of which are of regional importance.

What were the debates about?

  • How to organise discussion and consultation about the issues in the area.
  • Defining the considerations and reframing the problem from a planning issue to one that is more socially based.
  • The lack of clarity between the local and the regional issues.
  • Lack of identity, quality and social cohesion in the neighbourhoods. Lack of consideration of the river in the workshop.
  • Repair of the social and urban fabric, recognising there is no connection between the tunnel building and this.
  • The placement of the Opera house. The relationship of a new square to the urban fabric and functions.
  • The proposed solution to overbuild the infrastructure.

Added value for the host.

  • No direct effects were perceived but the topics of connections and human scale were picked up by the stakeholders in Oslo.
  • Support and confirmation of the importance of mixed uses.
  • The focus on lack of quality and social cohesion in the neighbourhoods. The workshop was a start for a series of consultation workshops. A list of 20 points came out with 4 main points of focus.
    This concluded that:
    • the traffic seems more local than regional,
    • public transport focus is needed,
    • a connection to the river is highly desirable,
    • a social focus is required with an ethnic dimension. The outcome of the issues of social cohesion has remained a point of attention.

EVALUATION (plenary session)
In the final plenary session all participants were invited to come up with remarks both related to the results of he Oslo meeting and the proceedings of the conference itself.
The conclusions and suggestions for improvement were the following:

Define the problems well and ask specific questions
To make the results of future conferences even greater for the hosting country from which the cases are studied, it is recommended to have well defined problems and questions available of the host country before hand.
Together with more background information on planning conventions, rules and regulations of the visited country, enables the visiting experts to form a better funded opinion about he planning performances that are shown and studied on site.
It appeared that with the limited information that was available beforehand one could ask many questions and generate few answers and one even feared to have given answers to wrong questions. It is on the Norwegian delegation to sort out the wisdom.
With the given limited opportunity of preparation one was afraid for false pretensions.
The ambitions for the Oslo meeting goes no further that the exchange of experiences.

Bear in mind the threefold Working Party formular
On the other hand one has to bear in mind that the formule of the IFHP Working Party is threefold: It provides the opportunity for :
Intervision: which boils down to a debate between professionals in which case studies are compared and analyzed. In this way providing inspiration. The Oslo Meeting lived up to this expectation.
Verification: of the cases on a one-to-one scale The site visits and talks with the project leaders fitted in here nicely.
Counseling: of professional colleagues who have questions that they would like to discuss in a platform of experts.
Especially in the latter function, one should be aware of the pitfalls that there are no universal solutions to specific questions, and that every solution should be tailor made. In comparing cases one should look for corresponding levels of scale.

To this effect the suggestion was made to give a follow-up to this meeting and consider an expert meeting especially dedicated to specific question Oslo might still have.

Publish or perish
A question of a more general nature is how a Working Party could establish a sort of collective memory. This is so much more a point of concern, when the participants of the Working Party are as a rule not always the same persons attending. It underlines the usefulness of publishing results of the work that has been done during the meetings of the Working Party MILU.
To built further on a network of “experts“ and expertise the plenary session endorsed the proposal to publish short Curricula Vitae of its members of the IFHP Working Party MILU on the web-site, stating amongst others, the fields of interests and their email address.




Oslo Meeting - IFHP Working Party group