The Queen promotes Norwegian architecture

The Queen of Norway visited the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for a seminar on ‘The Architectural Legacy of Sverre Fehn’ on Wednesday.

The Queen was welcomed by Jack Pringle, the president of RIBA, before she held a speech in which she emphasised the importance of promoting Norwegian architecture abroad and creating new networks. The Queen also said that the UK had played an important part in building the Norwegian architectural profession and was called “Norway’s biggest school of architecture” in the 1960s and 70s due to the many Norwegian students there.

The Queen's speech was followed by architects professor Per Olaf Fjeld who gave a lecture on the work of influential Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn and Ingerid Helsing Almaas, editor of `Byggekunst`, talked about new Norwegian architecture.

The Queen's speech:

"Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I take part in this first of a series of events that will present a few selected Norwegian architectural firms here at the Royal Institute of British Architects. This is the first time British and Norwegian architects come together in this way. I hope that this and future events will inspire closer collaboration.

Many Norwegian architects have a special relationship with United Kingdom. After the Second World War it was the policy of the Norwegian government to send students to study abroad. The UK was the country of choice for many future architects. So many in fact, that the UK was called “Norway’s biggest school of architecture” in the 1960s and 70s. Your country thus played an important part in building the Norwegian architectural profession.

This was also the period when Norwegian architecture started to make a name for itself abroad. Sverre Fehn brought the Nordic quality of light to Venice with the Nordic Biennial Pavilion in 1962. Intentions in Architecture, the major work of the late Christian Nordberg-Schultz written in 1966, inspired thousands of students worldwide. His writings on landscape and nature created a foundation for Norwegian architecture. Today the Library in Alexandria, designed by Snøhetta, is one of the best Norwegian architectural achievements.

Increased recognition leads to increased confidence and boldness. It is therefore important for Norway to promote the work of Norwegian architects abroad and to create networks. This is also what we are aiming to do here at the Royal Institute of British Architects today. One possible point of departure might be Sverre Fehn, but you will also meet some of our youngest and most innovative new talents.

Norwegian architecture has its roots in modernism and has a tactile relationship with materials and nature. We are a young nation, and our building tradition does not, with a few exceptions, include monumental buildings. But perhaps this has also been our strength.

Architecture is constantly evolving, and Norwegian architecture is no exception. For this constant development to take place, it is important that young architects get a chance to practise. In Norway we have focused on competitions as a way of bringing out the best of both young firms and well established ones. This stimulates architecture to evolve.

Our world is becoming smaller and smaller. Architects find markets abroad as well as at home. For the majority of Norwegian firms this is a new situation. We are, however, facing global challenges that can only be overcome at the global level. Encounters with other cultures can help to define one’s own identity.

When planning and creating sustainable environments and buildings, architects have for decades looked beyond national borders. I believe that although the architects presented here draw on sources both outside and within Norway, their work represents something uniquely Norwegian.

This, I hope, will be of interest to British architects.

Thank you."

HM Queen Sonja arrives at the architecture seminar with Jack Pringle.

The Queen of Norway speeks to some of the participants after the seminar at RIBA.

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