The Port of Oslo Uncovers the Past and the Office Needs of the Future

While architectural traces from the past are preserved, Oslo Port’s total rehabilitation of Skur 38, costing 145 million Norwegian kroner, also showcases future methods for reuse and sustainable modernization of office buildings.

Property developers, builders, as well as Oslo’s residents, have exciting things to look forward to as the scaffolding comes down around Skur 38 at Akershusstranda. Oslo Port’s headquarters are being rehabilitated as a flagship project for the environment and sustainability, a project where maritime history and modern work culture go hand in hand.

The facades of the former harbor warehouse have been given a new and colorful attire, which is clearly visible from Aker brygge, Tjuvholmen, and out from the Oslo Fjord. Hille Melbye Architects is the responsible architect for the project and has particularly engaged in the reuse aspect as well as the development of the new facades. The project has an overall cost frame of 145 million Norwegian kroner, and a total of approximately 4000 square meters of building mass is being modernized.

Preserving Port History

Skur 38 tells a rich story of port and urban development along Akershusstranda in Oslo. The warehouse was erected in 1915 as Norway’s first reinforced concrete building, serving as a warehouse for the America Line. It was expanded to also accommodate a passenger terminal for the America Line in 1950 before being converted into an office building in 1985.

“Now, the next chapter in history is being written for us at Oslo Port. Oslo Port’s and the port director’s headquarters are getting a new and expanded program, with a social and outward-facing ground floor and new outdoor areas as part of port development. We are incredibly pleased to have the architectural expertise of Hille Melbye on board as we preserve and renew in a sustainable manner,” says Siri Breivik of Oslo Port.

Uniting Past, Future, and Sustainability

The building is being rehabilitated in close collaboration with the City Heritage Office, where facades are largely restored to colors and expressions from around 1950. At the same time, the building is being upgraded to become a modern office building with BREEAM Excellent and energy class A certification, serving as a flagship project in the Futurebuilt 2.0 program with innovative solutions and material reuse.

“The project is about further development, as well as restoration, of a building with deep historical roots and an exciting future,” says architect and Hille Melbye’s project manager, Joachim Midjo Andersen

Circular in every detail

The old concrete facades are now clad in highly insulating lime plaster, with a green surface that integrates Skur 38 with the surroundings along the quay. A new floor in the main level is cast with a clay-based cement type with a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions. Historical traces in beautiful concrete details in the interior are sandblasted and exposed. Reused doors and demountable modular walls provide flexibility and increased lifespan for materials following circular principles.

“Later, it will also become visible how the old mahogany details from the port director’s former offices have found new life in the cafeteria,” says Midjo Andersen.

Holistic Development of the Port Area 

Skur 38 will be a building that is timely, not timeless; full of character and historical references, with distinctive concrete structures and corner ornaments, as well as social and outward-facing spaces, smart solutions, and flexible workplaces.

“The project has been driven by good collaboration and high competence at all levels, led by Oslo Port’s ambitions for a holistic development of the port area, where sustainability and history go hand in hand,” says Midjo Andersen.

“Skur 38 is an example of how by telling good stories, we can provide a deeper anchoring to the development of Oslo and enrich the experience of our city, which applies to new buildings as well as the rehabilitation of old ones. And this has never been more relevant than now. Developing a good city is not about classic or modern style, but about meaningful design and material choices. That are both beautiful and sustainable,” concludes Joachim Midjo Andersen.

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