The Oslo University Observatory

The Oslo University Observatory, concluded in 1833, was designed by Christian Heinrich Grosch, under influence of Danish classicism. The Observatory was built on Solli, so that it could have a clear view of the skys, without the interuptions of the city’s vivid lights.

1.Front view of the observatory

1.Front view of the Observatory

From the outside, the Observatory does not stand out as a particularly “important” building. It is a small building, with a T-shaped plan, plain pale walls, and an obvious lack of ornamentaion, presenting simple rectangular windows with a regular wood framing. The only exemples of ornamentation that seem to be present, is a cornice line that runs across the whole building, separating the floors, as well as some mouldings of the same colour beneath the windows and on the simple pilasters. I say it does not stand out as an “important” building because we’re used to measure the building’s level of importance through its style and degree of ornamentation. Perhaps because it was an university building, and not a government one, the architect did not find any reason to build it in a older of higher fashion, letting it flow with the modest style of the time. But, today, it emanates a striking presence. Although it is a little buried beneath all the posterior architecture, one cannot help but stand in awe, absorving the magnificient view of a building from another time, somewhat lost in the agglomerate of recent architecture.


2. Plan from April 1831

At the beggining of the tour, we were lead into a small chamber. It is not until after two rooms, that we’re struck with the actual brilliance of the building. In the heart of the building, where the two arms that form the observatory join, there is a circular room, spanning two storeys, with a gallery anchored in the bottom floor and a cupula. In this room we discover finally the presence of ornament on the walls, with a red base and details drawn on paler colours. On the circular opening to the gallery there are representations of the astrological signs.

2.Circular opening to the top gallery

3. Circular opening to the top gallery

3.Photograph from 1964

4. Photograph from 1964

The room following the circular one has the first telescope. An acient work of art held by two massive stones. There are two windows facing each other, these are opened, and to the amazement of everyone, so is the ceiling, creating an opening on the line of sight of the telescope, letting the skys into the room.

6.Telescope from side-room on the ground floor

5. Telescope from side-room on the ground floor

7.Telescope from top floor

6. Telescope from top floor

On the upmost floor, through a narrow staircase with a really low ceiling, there is a circular room topped with a wooden dome. In the middle, on top of a platform, sits the other telescope. This one nailed to the ground, and free to have a 360º view of the sky, as the dome can be easily moved through an old mechanism, and opened to let the stars in.

5.Solar diagram showing the Sun's position related to the Observatory, undated

7. Solar diagram showing the Sun’s position related to the Observatory, undated

The Observatoty is, without a doubt, a remarkable building, and a sign of the historical and scientific importance of the city of Oslo.

8.Section drawings from 1828

8. Section drawings from 1828




Drawings: (2.; 7.; 8.)

Old photographs: (4.) (Featured Image)

All other photographs were taken by me (Rodolfo Capeto Coelho, 2016) (1.; 3.; 5.; 6.)