In 2003, MVRDV, together with Norwegian firms Dark and a-lab, won the competition for the Bjørvika waterfront development and designed a dense urban master plan along Nyland Allé, the Oslo Barcode, that will be developed and realised by OSU in phases.
The international Norwegian financial institution DnB NOR decided to concentrate their twenty office locations currently dispersed over the city in the Barcode. In 2007, the master plan team was commissioned by developer OSU to design the urban concept. A new cluster of three volumes and a common basement with a 3,000m2 underground concourse, which interlinks the three buildings of the bank, was developed. MVRDV was commissioned as architect for the central building and co-responsible for the concourse.
The development of a new headquarter cluster is a strategic operation aiming for synergy and a clear identity. The objective was to translate the social and democratic character of the organisation into a building with excellent working conditions and spatial qualities. The structure is conceived as a steel rack which permits adaptation to the flexible nature of the organisation.
The steel rack is wrapped in a stone skin, which adopts Norwegian environmental standards. It appears as a rock, a strong shape within the boundaries of the Barcode. The niches of this rock provide space for vegetation growth: the positioning of the pixels creates roof gardens or outside areas for every floor.
The generic office floors recline and are recessed in various places to reflect the urban context and to create communal indoor and outdoor areas and outstanding daylight conditions. At street level the building volume is opened by sheltered entrance zones, and intersected by a public passage leading to the Oslo Central Station. The pixelated design allows this specific response whilst being highly efficient and flexible. As a result, every floor of the building is both unique and generic: the pixelated volume makes the generic specific.
Besides more than 2,000 flexible work spaces the building contains a panoramic 140 seat canteen on the top level, the executive lounge with a view over the fjord, the board room, in the heart of the volume, DnB NORs trading room with 250 work stations, and the main entrance with a reception and access to the concourse. These collective elements are connected by a staggered continuous internal route of terraces, encouraging informal meetings and communication between employees.
The route meanders from the reception upwards through the building, connecting all office levels with the communal areas. A series of wooden stairs and bridges allow employees to switch levels or even to walk the 17 levels up to the canteen on one side of the building and down on the other side. The route accommodates communal areas to the office floors and is made homely with a series of pantries, informal meeting areas and fire places.
It gives access to the various outdoor terraces and roof gardens. All these collective spaces are designed as glass pixels allowing views over the surroundings and transparency from the exterior. The route is naturally ventilated and has a high performance glass fit for the cold Norwegian winter.