Imagine a stage where iconic Nobel peace award winners like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Malala Yousafzais’ contributions are to be celebrated, what grandeur would you reckon to the gesture? If space could archive the remarkable history and endeavours of these laureates, what would it look and feel like? How would you conceptualize a building that would indeed define an era?
Well! In Oslo, Norway exists the Nobel Peace Centre that reveres the prestige of the Nobel Peace prize and the lives of legendary names penned in its history, commemorating it through exemplary spatial manifestation.
Occupying an area of 445 sqm, the design of this immensely appreciated civic-cultural center was conceived by an award-winning Ghanaian-British architect, Sir David Adjaye. In November 2000, the Norwegian parliament decided to establish this center in the old railway station, Vestbanen, with the primary aim of recounting the inspiring life of Alfred Nobel and the contributions of the Peace Prize Laureates. It also means to serve as an epicenter to deliberations, discussions, and exhibitions related to war, peace, and conflict resolutions.
The museum was inaugurated in June 2005 by Nelson Mandela and the 2005 peace prize winner Wangari Maathai. One of the chief learnings that go with the success of the project besides its splendid design is the art of its adaptive reuse. Repurposed in the former Oslo West railway station, a building dating from 1872 that ceased to function as a railway station in 1989, it is a remarkable example of creative utilization of dead city spaces for the better.
Idea Behind The Making
Precise in his overall intentions, David Adjaye wanted to design a compelling sequence of experiences for visitors. His design concept surpassed the intent of spaces where a user is informed about the work of the Peace Prize program to a sensory stimulative, interactive and engaging learning.
Preserving the Romanesque external form of this masonry structure, its interiors have been refurbished through radical decoration and installations into differentiating spaces whose contrasting contextual setting enlivens a visitor with a memorable user experience.
The center hosts exhibits and films with digital communication and interactional media, acclaimed for its progressive design and integration of cutting-edge technology.
Scheming Symbolic Spaces
The visit through the museum is a constant exploration. This fascinating tour begins with the entrance canopy installed on City Hall Square. Measuring about 11M x 7M X 3.5M, this canopy of aluminum frame and panels has about 2700 perforations that under adequate illumination outline the silhouette of the world map.
Under a creatively adorned ceiling of the reception area, a small, bright red souvenir shop pops out followed by ‘Passage Of Honour’, a brass metal-clad tunnel-like room with a display screen dedicated to the work of the most recent prize acclaimer. There are multiple flexible gallery and exhibition spaces that host various theme-based temporary exhibits and events, capturing the attention of a visitor with their bright color schemes and sensible illumination.
The most exciting design intervention in the center is of ‘The Noble Field’. It’s an interactive digital installation that presents all the Peace Prize laureates as digital flowers surrounded by thousands of small accent lights, symbolic of memorial candles, transcending into a
metaphysical experience. It is enclosed by frosted glass with this showcase of about 100 LCD screens enhanced with arrangements of around 1000 fiber optic lights.
A Noble Chamber that consists of a specially designed virtual book based on Nobel Alfred’s life and contributions is another facet of this inspiring digital gallery. This book in itself is an enthralling experience for guests that transcends from a conventional narration to an out-of-the-ordinary reading experience. Its sensors work in a manner that the pages respond to hand gestures and use animation and visual effects to narrate events and inventions of Nobel Alfred.
Yet, the most impressive experience borrows from the visitor’s authority to control the content being displayed as the leaves are turned.
Another unique multi-medial surprise is shared at ‘The Wall Papers’. A digital library, the continuous display surface of 68 million pixels, ensembling textual, pictorial, and animative information surrounding the Peace Prize.
Associates on five large screens with visitors having complete access over browsing and selecting articles by sliding the aluminum pointers attached to the wall. It’s through such intriguing efforts that David Adjaye has utilized intelligent digital interplay to support the intent of architecture rather than forming its basis.
The peace centers are also equipped with a cafe, Alfred Cafe, that features a resplendent abstract mural by Chris Ofili.
To wrap the journey as a memorable one, a wall post has been set towards the end of the tour that invites visitors to share notes of their take-aways and inspirations. This feature especially involves young kids upon whom the center wishes to inculcate the spirit of preach and practice peace.
The impacts of technology have constantly been a debatable topic within the various schools of thought. When questions of complete subjugation and homogenization of architecture under the influence of technology rises, it’s through creative and innovative multimedia integrations like those of the Nobel Peace Center where we can find a sensible balance between architecture of the solution, recreation, and innovation.
Tuma.S.2016. The Gems of Oslo: The Nobel Peace Center—Why Is the World’s Most Prestigious Prize Awarded in Oslo? [Online].Available at: https://theoslobook.no/2016/08/21/nobel-peace-prize-oslo/
Bellostes,J.(2010)Architecture And Perforated Metal.[Online].Available at: https://blog.bellostes.com/?cat=51&paged=4
- Perrin Sledge.(2011).Nobel Peace Centre.[YouTube Video].Available at: https://youtu.be/zhbr9gTYesY