It's been a great first month in the beautiful city of Oslo, where we've had our noses to the icy grind at the Katapult Accelerator. Luckily, any great city sends an urbanist's heart a-flutter, so we bundled up and wandered outside to get a taste of Oslo's best cafés, bars, restaurants as well as the in-town Skifestival (you haven't lived until you've spectated world cup biathlon, aka people in tights skiing and shooting at targets) but best of all we got to snoop around Oslo's lovely streets - and of course, run them through State of Place!
As urban design data geeks, it's hard to know where to start in Oslo. Dozens of elegant 17th to 19th century-era streets crisscross the downtown, and the city is compact enough that a quick walk or tram ride gets us to our digs in the hipster Grünerløkka neighborhood or to beautiful embassy buildings between the Slottsparken and Frognerparken (even sans Norwegian skills you can guess these are parks that wear snow or grass equally well). Oslo also has its share of new developments, some are huge projects full or cranes, while other are just 3D models on a screen adorned with sustainability slogans. So we thought we'd give you a lil taste - a smorgasboard, if you will - of three very different neighborhoods...
We start with Aker Brygge, a previous shipyard district right on the harbor and steps from downtown. Although the views and proximity makes it prime real estate ($$$) in any case, Aker Brygge manages to capture the best of the historical industrial built form and mix it with exciting but tasteful new buildings...and its fully pedestrianized! Like kids drooling in a candy shop (the Norwegian sweet tooth seems to come out around Easter) we scored the main promenade and found a tasty State of Place index of 85.4. Water, plazas, outdoor dining, art, and no cars, you can't go wrong.
The Not So Good (you can't directly criticize in norway!)
Next we headed back across town along the docks to the Barcode neighborhood, an in-progress development taking shape between the central train station and the famous Operhauset, whose ground to sky slanted roof gives tourists a stellar view of the entire harbor. Barcode has been a bit controversial, and it's not hard to see why. It's panoply of modern towers that look like they each want to be their own (vertical, phallic versions of the) opera house, and a wide boulevard that leaves a lot to be desired. We scored the nicest looking part of the boulevard and it hit a 58.5 on the State of Place Index, not exactly a score to quell those naysayers! It might be too late for Barcode to reach Aker Brygge numbers, but we have plenty of ways to improve the streets and get that score up.
The (you don't have to be) ugly
Our last contestant is the Økern district to northeast in a spot that doesn't have much going on, other than an 11 minute train ride to downtown on Oslo's magnificent modern trains. Here, the enemy of progress might just be a fat road with a penchant for roundabouts, but also plans that emphasize mall style shopping and views from new towers instead of the places on the street where people actually walk everyday to catch that train. How much value is being lost? Well, our initial score with all the previous buildings razed was a measly State of Place Index of 33.4, which you might expect when the street is surrounded by gravel pits.
However, using our fun, Sim-City style scenario analysis feature, said street according to the fully built out plans only straggles up to 42.8, even with that shiny new mall and a new pedestrian promenade bisecting the block. The reasons are obvious - lack of diverse amenities, nowhere to mingle outside, and the decision to keep the existing four-lane road with no protected crossing...just to name a few issues. We're trying to maintain Norwegian modesty here, but honestly we can totally help this street in a big way and make the Økern development a success even before the designs get off the screen. Save time, money and increase social and economic upside, what's not to love (Ok, we'll stop now!).
Stay tuned for some fun video posts, where you'll get to stroll these streets and others with us while we do "live" State of Place analyses! In the meantime, if you have a project you think "doesn't have to be ugly" or can be a bit better than "not so good," we'd love to chat with you and discuss how we can use data to make awesome places. Book a free consultation with us below!