Following a trip to Norway at the end of February 2015.
The first personal observation I can make about Norway is that, without a doubt, architectural design is almost always driven by the specifics of place and culture. Just as the architectural design of Barcelona reflects and further deflects the vibrancy of the Catalan culture, the architectural design of Norway seems to be pushed by the rationale of carving a safe place for oneself among the strong elements of nature.
Straight lines, robust walls, obtuse angles, generous space for living and for all annexes of life – a simplified description of Norwegian houses that protect and shelter everything from the outside world. The architecture may be functional, but it’s not austere – the personal touches that people give to their homes make me think of a people who appreciates attention to detail, the warmth and comfort of their homes and the company of their families.
Moving on – the second observation about Norway is that life is beautifully organised and clustered around the shores of the fjords. Without a doubt, life unfolds in ‘continental’ Norway, too, but it’s ultimately the shores and their proximity to the sea that attract the majority of the population.
Norwegians see opportunities, not boundaries at sea, and I suppose that is the third candid observation I can make about their culture. The impact this perception has had on their history is perhaps strongest when you think about the Vikings and their achievement of reaching the North America by boat cca. 1,000 AD. Beyond – I believe it’s something that’s been instilled in all the generations before and after and I find that fascinating and powerful in terms of what they are about as a nation.
Norway was under German occupation for the better half of WW II and the people strongly opposed and resisted the Nazi regime. I suppose natural conditions like the ones in Norway forge more than fjords – they forge people, giving them the physical strength to overcome difficult circumstance and the mental tenacity of doing so. Observations number: four and five.
Experiences like that bind people together and strengthen their belonging to a nation. They also cancel the traditional timeline of past-present-and-future and place the values of the nation first.
Observation number six is that the past seems to be one with the present and will go into the future in Norway, with medieval fortresses-turned Renaissance castles being used for state functions today. Looking outside the window of Akershus Castle in Oslo, I saw the sea and funnily enough, I felt like looking back in time. Every other person looking out that same window 50, 100, 200, 300 years ago, would have seen the same thing.