Kima Arkitektur, Atelier Oslo. Sentralen – You’re welcome to break in

Neo-classical façade of Sentralen

When it was built in 1901, Christiana Sparebank was meant to be a safe place where people could bring their economies. The architecture followed the function of the place by showing its trustworthiness: the neo-classical colossal façade gave the image of power and greatness and the use of stone reflected the stability of the bank. Therefore, the architect Henrik Nissen had stated that:

“the bank will stand forever, unless it explodes as a result of pressure from within”.

This statement implied the durability of the building through years and social changes. And that’s one issue that architecture has to face nowadays. Indeed, there was a need for a new place to host cultural events such as theatre, dance (contemporary, classical, break dance…), concerts, art exhibitions that aimed to gather people around new experiences. Therefore, the building has to be transformed.

The almost-moving black staircase

And that’s what the architecture itself is telling you when you enter it. Indeed, the first thing that took my attention was the powerful black staircase making its way through the walls of the former bank. The rigid and regular façade actually hides a dynamic architecture inside. In fact, almost all the plan is composed of staircases. And since the way in is from the side, it almost feel like you’re sneaking in the former bank.

Plan of the ground floor

The dialogue between the two parts of Sentralen (the older bank building and the building facing Tolbugata) is really interesting. The idea is to clearly distinguish what’s old and what’s new without mixing it.

On one side the space was restored and kept as it was originally, only the use of the space had changed. The focal point of this change of use is maybe the vault. Two huge thick reinforced doors encourage your curiosity or even your desire to “break-in the bank”. And, you discover this strange black room with a little balcony all around. Originally, this room was used to store and protect the money: a space not meant for human activity. However, after emptying it, it has now become a night-club, a space that can be very crowded. This radical transformation showcases the hidden potential of very specific spaces.

The vault


On the other side however, the building was transformed to create big open spaces that groups of artists can book to work, and they can modify it following their need, adding new separations or creating rooms with high shelves. This contemporary idea of flexible space enables dynamic use of the building.

Now, far from the imposing atmosphere of the bank Sentralen is one very lively place with a lot of happening… a place where you’re welcome to “steal” an experience or artistic performance that Sentralen has to offer.

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