An interdisciplinary collaboration turned an old silo wharf into a landmark for the whole city.

The idea to build a 12 meter wide and 335 meter long canal through Odderøya transformed the old silo wharf into an actual island. Suddenly, Kristiansand had a new landmark in the middle of the city, within walking distance of the city center, Fiskerbrygga and the art center around Kilden. The island concept opened up for a whole new design process where the future residential project would relate to three main attractions: the forest green natural area of Odderøya, the sea front and the channel. Kanalbyen (Canal City) is a result of an interdisciplinary creative collaboration, with high ambitions of developing an inviting social hub for the multitude of residents in the city.

Project Name: Kanalbyen
TYPE OF PROJECT: Residential and urban development
LOCATION: Silokaia, Kristiansand Norway
CLIENT: Kanalbyen AS
COLLABORATORS: Lin Skaufel from Everyday Studio, Arkitekma
SIZE: 72 000 m2
PROJECT STATUS: Under construction

Kanalbyen By a-lab - Sheet10
©Jean-Pierre Mesinele

In addition to working with a visionary devloper like Kanalbyen Eiendom, and a solution oriented municipality, A-lab has worked closely with Lin Skaufeil from Everyday Studio on the development of the zoning plan and the first construction phase. Comprehensive cash flow statements were prepared to make sure that a costly canal was the right urban planning initiative. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary team developed an analysis of the urban area to create a whole hierarchy of atmospheric outdoor areas and spaces. The goal was to inspire to a bustling life on the ground level, whether it was accommodated to homes or businesses.

Kanalbyen By a-lab - Sheet7
©Jean-Pierre Mesinele

Kanalbyen is designed with a focus on ground level interaction and eye-height experiences where people move and stay. The buildings shape the urban spaces and are carefully placed to bring out the best of the surrounding natural treasures: the sea, the forest and the canal. The island shape made it possible to design a sheltered, semi-open courtyards on each side of the canal where there was no ground on the backside of the buildings. The buildings facing the canal have a view of the intimate and sheltered canal and the forest on Odderøya, while the buildings facing sea promenade front, although more exposed to the weather, offer a spectacular view of the sea.

Different sequences of experiences have been created to invite people to walk to and through the neighborhood. Wind, daylight and sightline studies have governed the design as well as the placement of each courtyard and building. There is a network of streets, with four bridges connecting to the mainland, preventing it from ending up as a cul-de-sac, but rather have routes to the city center and the nature on Odderøya. A visit here should feel like an eventful journey, where different spaces and activities are carefully placed in relation to the two main axes: the canal promenade on one side and the sea promenade on the other.

Kanalbyen By a-lab - Sheet13
©Jean-Pierre Mesinele

The canal gives the neighborhood an inner water basin. At the inlet and the outlet of the canal, the ground floors have direct access to the water via exterior staircases. Since the canal side is more sheltered against weather and wind than the sea side, some of the apartment could be provided with small verandas that hover over the water surface. Having a private little dock where you can go swimming or hang your kayak on the façade, spark a feeling of pride of living on the ground floor, and it creates a special atmosphere in the cityscape.


Why should people travel to a residential island? The answer is to create a number of different urban spaces, courtyards and recreational areas that welcome a vast variety of activities and experiences. In the canal city, we have created a hierarchy of social hubs.

  • The commons belong to the whole city. Each side of the Holmen Torg square is accommodated to food and drink. Large docks accommodate swimming, fishing, sunbathing and relaxation.
  • The neighborhood courtyards are smaller courtyards and recreational areas that you discover as you meander the city street. Two large, separate parks have been established. At a distance from the developed area, Peisestuen is a part of Odderøya and connects Kanalbyen to the forest area.
  • Local neighborhood spaces are more intimate social and recreational hubs along the inner courtyards. These spaces are design for chance interactions between residents as they travel to or from work, do errands or pick up their kids from kindergarten. The result is a greater sense of belonging and ownership among the residents.

Accommodations have been made for a motor road on the Holmen/west side of the canal, and a pedestrian and bicycle promenade on the Odderøya side. The local environment has been in focus, and on the Odderøya side, it is almost as if the planted area reaches all the way down to the seafront. On the other side, the pedestrian area forms steps down towards the water in several places, offering access to boat and kayak lanes. Along the motor road on the Holmen side, green buffers function as clear boundaries for the ground level apartments. Several of the buildings on Holmen are built with protrusions to offer a visual screen to the upper floors.

©Jean-Pierre Mesinele

Notice how different expressions the facades on the seaside are and how they reveal the myriad of apartment types. The balconies are in themselves a signal diversity as they range from open glass constructions hovering in thin air to screened-off niches. The same variation can be found on the inside, where each apartment has its own unique qualities.


Out on a headland, the weather is not sunny all year around. Placing the buildings in semi-open blocks with building rows facing either the canal or the sea front, creates inner courtyards that are sheltered from the weather and the wind. The courtyards are designed with playgrounds and recreational areas in lee of the wind. Inspired by classic Southern Norwegian town planning, there are small passages and alleys that provide a view of the canal and the sea from each of the inner courtyards.


The design features a variety of building volumes in order to create dynamics in the cityscape and to offer a great variety of apartment types. In addition, the buildings are designed with different façade materials and colors to further diversify their expression and to establish an aesthetic that is universally designed though still diversified. Investments have been made in quality materials and detail solutions that are robust and designed to survive in this weather-beaten location, and to grow a patina: from roughcast to copper, aluminum and naturally greying wood cladding.

The outdoor spaces inspire both private recreation and social interaction, with clear borders between the private, semi-private and public zones. A special focus has been placed on outdoor experiences, landscape transitions and creating multi-use opportunities and a multitude of recreational spaces. As a whole, the design is made to give birth to chance meetings and a sense of neighborly relations.

The courtyard design varies according to the ground floor use. Where there are businesses, the cityscape reaches all the way in to the business and establishes a direct connection between the outside and the inside area. The residences are placed on the same level as the courtyards. The front gardens have clear boundaries and are placed higher up than the sea promenade. The front gardens have gates through which children can run in and out and neighbors can be invited in without having to go through the apartments. Accommodations have been made for swimming, fun and games along the waterfront via a tribune design that form steps down to the water in several spots.

The developer had a clear vision of leaving a legacy of quality, and allowed considerable wiggle-room to design each apartment and courtyard with an ocean view. The progressive mindset of the developer was further established as the apartment prices were based on each apartments unique features and not solely on square meter price. Because there was a great range in apartment prices even within similar sizes, people of all ages, families with small children and people of different economic and social backgrounds have bought a new home in Kanalbyen. This multitude will be the defining feature in the shaping of the new seafront neighborhood of Kristiansand in the years to come.


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

Write A Comment