The National Theatre

The National Theatre is one of Norway’s most important cultural institutions and has been so for more than 120 years. As time has passed, weather, traffic and people has done their fair share of wear and tear, and the old venerable building has a great need of proper restoration. The way of theatre production has also changed since the grand opening in 1899. To remain a functional theatre in this modern era, changes and upgrades are now a necessity.

The Ministry of Culture has given Statsbygg the task of making a preliminary project of the rehabilitation of the National Theatre. On November the 30th 2020, this preliminary project was delivered by the project group consisting of Sweco Norge as, RATIO arkitekter as, FuthArk arkitekter as og Origo Arkitektgruppe as. Subcontractors are WSP and COWI AS/Kahle Acoustics. As an integrated part of the overall building project, a user equipment project has been delivered by a group consisting of: AIX Arkitekter AB/COWI AS, Artifon AB and Beate Ellingsen AS interiørarkitekter. The project includes total rehabilitation and upgrades of the building condition and the technical facilities at the National Theatre, restauration of historical areas and a new underground annex with a pavilion on ground level.

The project’s overall concept is based on the thought of “rings in water”, a gradual transition from extroverted rooms (like entrances and dissemination areas), via the theatre halls, to more “hidden” introverted rooms like the backstage areas and the spaces for the actors. Office areas, cantina etc. are located further away from the stages.    

The Old Building
The National Theatre is an easily recognizable building that, typically for its time, has a high architectonic quality. Henrik Bull’s first large creation is drawn in the style of mannerism, with a playful use of classical motifs and personal expressions. The interior is in the style of rococo, supplemented with paintings and decorations typical for the late 19th century. The theatre is a listed building, and the project aims to do only small interventions, “invisible” to the average visitor. Back of House areas are planned rebuilt to a greater extent to fit the modern use and to achieve good and efficient communication lines between functions that naturally belong together. An upgraded technical infrastructure, within the physical limits of the building, is also planned.

Underground annex with pavilion.
The new addition to the theatre has two parts: a visible pavilion on ground level and volume hidden below the theatre’s forecourt with the new ‘amfi-stage’. This new structure follows the same clear division between audience related areas and stage related areas. Audience related areas are to be of a high architectural value to elevate the visitor’s expectations before entering a show, but also be valuable spaces for activities such as dissemination, catering and other events. The new structure will not try to mimic the historic architecture, but on the contrary be a statement of contemporary architecture. The connection between the old and the new will show in the choice of materials.close >>