by Jincy IypeFeb 16, 2023
Is the idea of adaptive reuse to create a new narrative of the building or is it an enhancement of the old?
Adaptive reuse, as a term has gained much momentum in recent years. Amid the questions of whether it may ruin the historic essence of a building, adaptive reuse is currently considered an efficient approach to historic preservation and sustainability. While many old buildings have transformed to accommodate newer functions without altering their facade, stories of past and present seem to be taking new routes of existence. Extending a new meaning to the existing architectural heritage of Norway is the Norwegian Press House (Pressens Hus) designed by Atelier Oslo and KIMA Arkitektur. While transforming two listed buildings from the 1880s in the historic city centre of Oslo, the architects add to the architectural dialogue of reusing old buildings. In the 3738 sq.m. space, the new hub for media and press activities houses rooms for conferences, studios, meetings, and a restaurant. While being the office for 11 prominent media organizations in Norway with room for approximately 200 people, the new essence of Pressen Hus redefines the existing shell of the Victorian facade.
Some of the newly introduced spaces include a number of atriums. The entrance atrium grows larger with each rising floor and the auditorium atrium manifests the opposite volume. Along with providing light to the deep volumes of the two buildings, the atriums also help visitors orient themselves. Surrounded by bridges that are suspended from newly introduced beams, made of laminated timber is the entrance atrium, which supports the glass roof. Imparting a sense of lightness, this atrium contrasts with the auditorium atrium. With an old, listed steel structure that is a remnant of the old warehouse, the auditorium atrium transforms into a space of structure and light without any decks. Filtering the light, the new glass roof over this atrium appears to grow out of the old structure, creating a layered wood structure.
While sharing the process of transforming the historic building, the architects state, “The design was done in close dialogue with the preservation authorities to find solutions in adherence to the many restrictions due to the listing of both buildings.” Working on an old structure is an intricate attempt of balancing the old and new to not suppress the identities of the past. The architects further add, “Most of the old brick structure has been kept, restored, and given precise cuts to create rooms for new circulation and technical equipment. Due to different floor levels between the two buildings, it was necessary to establish a completely new internal circulation to achieve universal accessibility.”
Imparting the dialogue of the present and past, a sense of modern familiarity seems to have been extended to the interiors as well. To provide a light organic quality, the old brick walls have been carefully plastered with lime. While contrasting the light mural walls and resonating with the original brick colour, the load-bearing steel structures have been coloured in red tones.
Marking the difference between the old building and the new construction, the additional structures have been built in light ash wood to create a contrast between the new and original materials, which also blends in. Along with the newly built elements, the facades have been restored and returned to their original colour and finishing. On connecting the building to the immediate urban fabric, the architects share, “A new, continuous white concrete floor functions as a carpet and extension of the city floor outside, welcoming visitors in from the street and into the building.” In between their approach to creating a renewed perspective for the historic buildings, the architects and client hope to raise awareness that “architectural reuse of older buildings is worth investing in.”
While being awarded Arkitekturprisen 2022 (the Architecture Prize) by the Oslo Architects' Association, the project is expected to “become an important role model and an inspiration for the work of facilitating new use of Oslo's many empty cultural buildings and other older buildings.”
Though the interventions on old heritage structures remain a topic of debate, the subtleness of contemporary materials against the backdrop of the old, mostly natural materials initiates a unique conversation between modernity and historicity. However, every building is different and so is its history. So when a building is given a new life, it is not just its architecture that is transformed, it's the history, past and every story that the building witnessed that gets passed on too.
Project Name: Norwegian Press House (Pressens Hus)
Location: Oslo, Norway
Size: 3738 sqm
Architect: Atelier Oslo and Kima Arkitektur
Client: Aspelin Ramm
Main contractor: HENT
Structural engineer and building physics: Rambøll
Electrical engineer: Multiconsult
HVAC engineer: Engenius/Rambøll
Acoustic engineer: Brekke & Strand Akustikk
Fire engineer: Fokus Rådgivning