Transforming Hauskvartalet

The corner of Hausmannsgate and Møllergata invites curiosity. Today, it stands with fading graffiti-clad walls, boarded up windows, and a Urbanium site office comfortably nestled around the corner – the neighbourhood is heavy with suggestion of urban transformation.

Architecture is a mirror of dominant societal values; it emerges from a complex field of social, political and economic dynamics particular to place and moments in time. These values are filtered into the built environment by the development and implementation of planning legislation. In the last 20 years, the urban pocket of Hauskvartalet has been positioned as an opportunity to meet housing demands in inner-city Oslo and has since been earmarked to contribute to Oslo’s cultural axis along the downtown banks of Aker River.

The site is a landmark case of Norwegian urban revitalisation, that has building legislation at the centre of conflicting agendas to protect the alternative-lifestyle ‘spirit’ of the site and to financially capitalise on its transformation.

Figure 2 Aerial photograph, taken February 2016, of Hauskvartalet’s townhouses and vacant plots. Dotted line marks the Quarter’s boundary and key properties are identified.

Four out of Hauskvartalet’s ten properties were exchanged from public to private ownership in 2016, out of which the first properties to be redeveloped, corner block (Hausmannsgate 42) and the adjacent vacant plot (Brenneriveien 1), are at design development stage prior to planning approvals.  The site’s cultural value stems from its recent past, housing an independent cultural hub, Hausmania Kulturhus, operated by a collective of vigilante creatives and the associated 18-year residential occupation of two townhouses on the property (Hausmannsgate 40 & 42) which also earned reputations as rare success stories of self-regulated housing collectives.

A significantly high level of engagement in the transformation process saw a diverse range of agents, state and municipal agencies, residents, architects and developers, involved in the creation and interpretation the site’s planning legislation.

A key planning document for the site is one called S-4387. Implemented in 2008, the zoning policy is unique in Oslo where for the first time a site was regulated as Special Area: Urban Ecological Cultural Quarter. This document was composed in close consultation with the residents in workshops over the course of four years. These regulations were drawn in order to protect the site’s now-established cultural value and opportunity it provides for alternate-living practices for those otherwise priced out the market. It stipulates the allocation of the site for cultural, residential and recreational purposes “re-establishing art-related business and housing” and with continued “high degree of user involvement”.

Figure 3 Proposed scheme, viewed from Møllergata. Asplan Viak Arkitekter 2017.

A proposed design scheme was published in April 2017. Adherence to S-4387 was conditioned during the privatisation of the Quarter, however, a comparison of the scheme to the regulations reveals that while the design strategy has been shaped by capitalising on some of the allowances afforded by the regulation, it also does not comply with others.

Amongst these are issues relating to scale and conservation. The regulations provide limitations on the scale of redevelopment, which stipulates the maximum building height and floor space areas. The proposal does not adhere to either regulation. The ridge height exceeds C+32, climbing to C+42 with addition of three extra residential storeys.

Figure 4. Volumetric height study demonstrating the zoned building height breach through comparison of the proposed scheme (left) and the legal height volume (right) of the proposed scheme (left) compared.

Hausmannsgate 42 is registered on the Directorate for Cultural Heritage’s Gul Liste, which requires the development to gain permission from the municipal conservation department prior to building approval. Regulation S-4387 highlights the key conservation requirements which at a minimum focus on protection of the façade, “the building is only allowed to be rebuilt/upgraded or remediated on condition that the exterior is retained unchanged or returned to proven original appearance”. A comparison of the existing building plans and the proposed plans makes visible the demolition of the listed corner block. The scheme describes intentions for this building to be replaced by a pre-fabricated timber structure.

Figure 5. Comparing street level plans of the existing building and the proposed scheme reveals the demolition of the building.


Prior to privatisation, in 2015 the site’s residents collaborated with Eriksen Skajaa Arkitekter, the Husbanken (Norwegian State Housing Bank) and another developer to propose a preliminary redevelopment scheme with a holistic approach whose aim was to not only demonstrate the possibility for profitable development within the planning regulations but excel at realising the intention of the regulation in order to maintain the social housing organisation value of the site. Proposing, for example to mix low-income social housing opportunities with market-appealing housing and setting limited rental periods of 5 3-year renewals, reducing individual living space in favour of shared facilities. This scheme, and their bid to purchase the site, was set aside aside. One begins to question what motivations are driving the transformation.

The redevelopment of the quarter is part of the ongoing urban transformation in Oslo, a city characterised for its high housing prices and correspondingly competitive rental market – conditions readily capitalised by re-development opportunities. Originally a product of developer-driven housing crisis solutions in the late-nineteenth century, the quarter is once again designated to increase urban housing offerings.

The case of Hauskvartalet is an active example of how a residential quarter in the city of Oslo is continuing to evolve via push-pull dynamics of government agencies and private development. Depending on the eventual outcome of approvals, it is possible that architecture is not only shaped by policy but its level of implementation. This case demonstrates that interpretation of the policy is very much a push-pull dynamic, made more complex by agendas such as commercial interest.

At the end of the day, these agendas are felt by the residents. The impact of such a transformation will see the current residents unable to buy into the new development, replaced by a very different demographic that ultimately has a significant impact on, not only the architecture, but the ‘spirit’ of the place.



Article References:

Byøkologiske boliger i Hauskvartalet. Eriksen Skajaa Arkitekter AS, Husbanken, Kulturhuset Hausmania. 2015. Husbanken online archive: [Accessed 22.09.2017]

Salgsprospect – Eiendommer i Hauskvartalet. Prepared by Hadrian Eiendom AS. 2014. [Accessed 17.09.2017]

Miljøprogram for Hauskvartalet, Preliminary Draft 19.10.2017. Prepared by Eiendoms- og byfornyelsesetaten (EBY) in collaboration with Lent AS, Asplan Viak AS and Pir II AS. [Accessed 28.10.2017]

S-4387 Reguleringsplan med for Brenneriveien. 1 m. fl. (Hauskvartalet) 18.06.2008. Oslo kommune Plan- og bygningsetaten. 2008. [Accessed 17.09.2017].

Uttalelse forurensning [Contamination Report] 7.11.2014. Oslo kommune Eiendoms- og byfornyelsesetaten Forurensningseksjonen.

Cultural Heritage Strategy 2017-2021. Riksantikvaren [Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage]. 2017. Riksantikvaren Vitenarkiv [Accessed 14.10.2017]

Decision of 15 June 2016 concerning the sale of four properties in Hauskvartalet in Oslo. EFTA Surveillance Authority. [Accessed 14.10.2017]

Kjenn ditt hus. Murgårder. Riksantikvaren [Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage]. 2012. Riksantikvaren Vitenarkiv [Accessed 20.10.2017]

Hausmania Kulturhus – Specialområde byøkologisk kulturkvartal – Hausmannsgt. Planskisse til prosjektavklaring Reguleringsplan. Prepared by Kulturbygg Oslo in consultation with Gaia-Oslo AS. 2005.  [Accessed 17.10.2017].

Byøkologisk Program 2011-2026. Oslo Kommune. March 2011. [Accessed 2.11.2017]

TOBIAS Report 2016: Theme: Housing. Oslo Byarkiv. [Accessed 2.11.2017]

Figure References:

1. Photograph by Ann Bækken. 2015. Radical Portal: Byrådet har sviktet hele Hausmanns-kvartalet [Article dated 9.12.2015]

2. Photograph by Ann Bækken. 2015. Radical Portal: Byrådet har sviktet hele Hausmanns-kvartalet [Article dated 9.12.2015]

3. Asplan Viak Arkitekter AS, Habitat Haus Scheme. 2016.