Art and architecture comingle in the new Oslo Opera.
Norwegian architects Snøhetta are winners of the World Architecture Festival 2008 for their design of the Oslo Operahouse. The building’s arresting forms, integrated mix of materials and the designer’s close collaboration with artists convinced the jury of the project’s worth, winner of the culture category of the competition. Snøhetta’s opera and dance facility defines various spaces with four specific materials: stone for a carpet-like sloping roof that sweeps from the ground upward, timber for a “wave wall,” metal for a “factory” of utilitarian rooms, and glass for encasing the underside of the “carpet” spaces.
Artists were invited early on in the design process to collaborate with the architects and to ensure that the art was not merely decoration but a meaningful dialogue between the building’s elements. In addition to the stone carpet roof, (the work of Norwegian artists Kristian Blystad, Kalle Grude and Jorunn Sannes), and the metal factory (by Norwegian artists Astrid Løvaas, and Kirsten Wagle), the stage curtain in the auditorium (opposite) is the work of American artist Pae White, selected by an international competition.
White worked with digital images of aluminum foil, which reflect and adopt the colors of the dark timbered auditorium. The images were transferred to a computer driven loom for the bespoke production of the curtain. White describes her work, “Metafoil,” as a contemporary take on the centuries-old tradition of weaving, but with a digital twist. “Metafoil takes advantage of the captive gaze of the audience, introducing a foil, a false reflection, an illusion of depth, a novel typography that disrupts expectation and challenges perception,” says White. The curtain plays with shifts of scale with its rich texture of colors: a few feet away, individual threads begin to form patterns. From the audience’s perspective, it appears as a fantastically over scaled metallic, three-dimensional sculpture.