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Norwegian Opera and Ballet House in Oslo: Part 1 – Amazing building!
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August 18, 2014

Norwegian Opera and Ballet House in Oslo: Part 1 – Amazing building!

Visiting Norway, I could not pass on a chance to go and see the famous Opera and Ballet House in Oslo. The amazing tour guide told us many nice details about the building and also some gossips about dancers. I, as a technical geek, of course had to ask about the ventilation system and here you can read some interesting points about the building itself (part 1) and technical background (part 2).

The Norwegian Opera and Ballet House looks magnificent from outside to inside and it was designed and built using “whole building design approach” as follows: 1. reduce the demand for heating, cooling, electricity and ventilation, and 2. supply the necessary heating, cooling, electricity and ventilation in the most efficient way using renewables, and 3. always consider the impact on a whole-building level.

The building is called a Snow Cap (Snøhetta) and it was completed in 2007 and more than 600 employees with more than 50 occupations come to work almost on daily basis. The building has 38,500 m² with over 1 100 rooms divided into three main sections: audience, rehearsal rooms (largest one with height of 9 m and 16 x 16 m floor area), and administration and workshops. The workshops can be split into a hard workshop (for making the scenery such as carpenters, metalworkers, painters and decorators) and soft (for costume production, make up areas, administration and changing rooms). Surprisingly there is also a spacious green courtyard for relaxation and concentration.

The outdoor roof is covered with Italian marble (looking like a carpet) which retains its brilliance and color even when wet and has excellent properties in terms of stability, density and longevity. The roof is accessible for the general public and it is a defining feature as the roof rises from the fjord. The highly glazed façade gives the magnificent view of the interior wooden walls and creates a stunning image when illuminated at night. Yet, the high amount of glazing does not interfere with a very comfortable climate indoors even on sunny days (in my case over 30°C indoors).

The “wave wall” in the foyer represents the threshold where the public meets the art and it is made of oak wood. The oak wood creates a complex organic geometry and works as excellent acoustic attenuator. The foyer is floored with white Italian marble and there are also walls designed to look like an iceberg structure with green light coloring at the bottom as the Icelandic icebergs shining through the pressed crystal like structure at the bottom.

There are three stages: the main stage with approximately 1 400 seats, scene 2 with up to 440 seats, and rehearsal and stage 1 with 200 seats.
The main stage has the shape of a horseshoe which is one of the best shapes for opera and ballet offering the short distance between audience and the performers, good sight lines and excellent acoustics with long reverberation time avoiding high frequency vibrations and volume increase. The main stage is made of oak darkened by ammonia. The spectacular chandelier suspended inside the oval reflector illuminates the room with LED lighting which look like day light, and at the same time due to its shape it works as acoustic reflector and scatter and diffuses sound.

The main stage is equipped with advanced theatre technology and a very advanced electro-acoustic system. The main stage itself (16 x 16 m) has a move-able rotating stage, two side stages and a background stage. The stage can be lifted/lowered (using 16 elevators) which allows the most amazing ideas come to life, for example the new production of the Swan Lake where the actors are dancing in the water basins (created by lowering certain parts of a stage and using rubber mats to contain the water) filled with 5 000 litters of warm water with pumps and pumped out after the play. And I must not forget about the amazing stage curtain which was designed based on the digital images of crumpled aluminium foil which reflects the colours of the auditorium. The orchestra pit is highly flexible and can be adjusted in heights and size using three separate lifts.

Source: Oslo Opera House / Snohetta, Arch Daily, www.archdaily.com/440/oslo-opera-house-snohetta