Monday, 23 April 2012


My sister and I went swimming yesterday!

In 1915, architect Harald Aars won the competition for the design of a new public bath in the neighbourhood in Oslo called Bislett. Construction of the brick-walled, concrete-floored building was completed in 1920, and it's still in full use.

The facility was considered to be among the most modern and advanced in Scandinavia at the time, and  the "Classicism meets Nordic New Baroque"-architecture suggests a temple of health and natural well-being for the whole population, for whom bathing was considered a privilege at the time, but also necessary to combat diseases, and to provide exercise and "strengthening of the body". For an illustration of the Norwegian people, pay notice to my sister, standing in front of the car in the above picture.

The whole building, including sculptor Anders Svor's statue "After the Bath" outside the main entrance, is protected by the strictest Norwegian preservation laws, called "fredning". (Sorry about the Coca-Cola logo being included in the picture; I don't even like that company, as they're mean to Indian farmers.) It was owned by the municipality of Oslo until 2005, when the right-wing city government sold it off at a loss. It is now owned by a famous Norwegian investor, and is well-managed by friendly people. The alterations done to modernize, however, are crudely done and aesthetically offensive and/or uninteresting. The investor, Olav Thon, is known for not caring too much about old buildings and sabotaging preservation.

There are several artworks throughout the building, including more statues and stained glass windows. It appears not all of them have titles.

There's also an old clock at one end of the main hall, hand painted and signed "H. I. KNOPH, KRISTIANIA", Christiania/Kristiania being the name of Oslo in the period 1624-1925.

The old changing stalls, seen to the right in this picture, are made from wood and painted pink. They're not currently in use. The railing is made from poured concrete and terrazzo, borrowing its organic lines from the Baroque.

The walls have beautiful ceramic and marble tiles. (I prefer the ceramic ones, as the marble tiles are too shiny, and don't look they were there from the beginning.)

The building also has lots of corners and winding paths and nooks, like this one, just above the entrance. Currently, it is occupied by a chair and an electronic plastic object telling about workout hours. I wonder what the space was used for originally?

The main hall has a glazed ceiling and is lit mainly by natural light, and almost all the other rooms have big windows with opaque glass, admitting generous amounts of sunshine. I also like the slightly absurdly detail of having two clocks, which also underlines the weird symmetry.

Bislet public bath (that's "Bislet bad" in Norwegian) is definitely worth a visit if you're in Oslo, and not too expensive to visit. Apart from the interesting architecture, it also has a pool with a counter-current, a jacuzzi, saunas, yoga classes and nice hot showers.

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago, when I lived in Oslo, I went swimming there. There is something magical about the place. Thank you for refreshing my memories :-).


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