Government quarter of Oslo

Read about the colour scheme for the government quarter in Aftenposten newspaper.

Contemporary architecture suffers from a lack of sophisticated and thoughtful use of colour. What we get are cities and towns that are totally colourless, and our cultural landscape is tossed on the dump. When Dagny’s book Farger til folket!(“Colour to the People!”) was released in January 2017, it was the image (below) of a coloured barcode that grabbed people’s attention. This same picture has featured in 30-40 lectures over the year in Norway, and the most common comment people make is “… but why didn’t they build it like that?” Of course, there were some who liked the barcode’s graphic, sculptural group form, but they were by far in the minority.


Most people preferred the coloured variant. It seems somehow friendlier, more cosy and with a warmer atmosphere. Since the focus on colour and its ability to be mood-creating seems absent in modern urban developments, we have used our own initiative to colour the preliminary sketches of the new government quarter. This is to emphasise the importance of the targeted use of good colours in our increasingly drab cities.


A colourless government quarter

Team Urbis with its proposal Adapt won the competition to design the new government quarter. Both the competition, the process and the winning proposal have had to withstand a lot of criticism, which has nothing to do with the winning team and more to do with the sheer number of workplaces that need to be squeezed into a relatively small area. One cannot comment on the architecture, but there is no doubt it needs to be both compact and on a massive scale.


Anaemic and lifeless colour palette

On the other hand, the colour scheme cannot pass without comment, so we have made our own proposal on how the new government quarter could look with coloured facades. The government quarter and the much talked about high block (and the perhaps even more debated Y-block – which, it must be said, is more interesting than the former) have become a symbol of the terrible terrorist attack that happened in the summer of 2012. That is why we have, with our colour scheme, considered it especially important that the new government quarter conveys the opposite of death, and instead celebrates life by demonstrating strength and optimism.


Colour palette suggestions: warmth, well-being and cosiness

The observable green shades are a reference to the Deichman Library located in the immediate vicinity. This high block has a warm brown beige hue. When we developed the colour palette, we wanted to draw in the colours of the buildings in the neighbourhood so that the new buildings have a kind of familiarity with the old ones. When the architectural form is contrasting (which can be said about several of the buildings as there are examples of many eras represented), colour can harmonise the different styles in its grip.

The contrast between the contemporary architecture and the classic becomes more comfortable when a thoughtful colour palette is used. The buildings on the left and right sides of the Basarhallene halls feature facades with two shades of the same colour. The green building on the left has been given a darker shade of green at street level to break up the large facade, but also to highlight Picasso’s artwork from the Y-block. The building on the right has been given two shades of terracotta, also to break up the facade.


A city should not be a museum of architecture, but rather a place for well-being and tranquillity. Good and friendly urban spaces should be given priority over the desire to preserve examples of an architectural era. We have therefore given the high block a warm brown beige hue, which goes well with the terracotta colour of the asymmetrical building on the left and the existing architecture.

Customer Dagny Fargestudio
Year 2018