With its peripheral location in northern Europe and 29 000 kilometers of coastline, mainland Norway, which covers a distance of 1750 kilometers from the Skagerrak to the Barents Sea, seems to be the exact opposite of Switzerland, with its compact shape and landlocked borders in central Europe. But on closer inspection, there are also similarities: Both countries have rejected EU membership and both countries were once regarded as Europe’s poorhouses but are now among the richest in the world – although Norway’s economic upturn came only with development of the oil industry beginning in the 1960s. Lastly, the largely rugged, more
alpine landscape of the two countries unites them and has historically led to comparable building typologies in rural areas. For a long time, little attention was paid outside Norway to the country’s architecture, a fact that Christian Norberg-Schulz addresses at the beginning of his book, titeled Modern Norwegian Architecture (1985) noting that his native country has been absent in standard works on 20th century architecture. To begin with, the country lacked a preeminent figure like Jacobsen in Denmark, Asplund in Sweden or Aalto in Finland, in addition the debate culture in Norway seemed to be too self-absorbed and lackluster. After more than 30 years, Norberg-Schulz’s assertions need to be put into perspective: Snøhetta and Reiulf Ramstad are amongst the most highly regarded architectural firms in and outside their own country, and both Oslo’s urban development and Norway’s Nasjonale turistveger attract much international attention. Oslo and the architectural interventions along the Norwegian Scenic Routes are covered in this issue, too. But the goal is to allow a more comprehensive picture to emerge. Essays and forays into aspects of modern Norwegian architectural history serve this purpose, as do glimpses away from the capital, into the rural regions and as far flung as Svalbard – with 14 inhabitants per square kilometer, Norway is extremely sparsely settled (Switzerland: 208); densification is thus neither a problem nor an issue. Finally, we ask Norwegian colleagues how they assess the state of affairs and the future of architecture in their country.