City Hall

Denne artikkelen omtaler et sted

Åpne i Oslo bykart
Foto: Astrid Ledang / Oslo Byleksikon

Oslo City Hall (Rådhuset), The, Rådhusplassen 1, seat of the city’s central administrative bodies and a number of municipal offices, designed by the architects Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson. The City Hall was officially opened in 1950, after a planning and construction period of approximately 30 years.

The city hall is cast in concrete and the facades then bricked, with most of the bricks coming from Hovin teglverk. The east tower is 66 m high, the left tower 63 m (the street level is higher to the west than to the east). The building covers an area of 4900 m² and has a floor area of 39,700 m². It contains about 270 offices in the towers: the city archives (Byarkivet ) were housed in the top floors of the East Tower until 1999. In the West Tower there are also artist studios with roof light. The meeting room for the City Council (Byrådet ) was established in the East Tower in 1987 (architects Halvor Poulsson and Ole Hankø).

The lower middle building contains richly decorated reception rooms and the city council hall. The hall is 21 metres high and has a floor area of 49 x 31 metres.

The City Hall’s carillon is placed at the top of the East Tower and comprises 49 bells which ring every quarter of an hour and play every hour from 7am until midnight. The carillon of 38 bells was completed in 1952, and restored and expanded in 1999. The new carillon can both play automatically and be played manually using a special keyboard in the East Tower. It is the largest carillon in northern Europe and was produced by Olsen Nauen bell foundry in Tønsberg. The bells vary in size from 14 kg to 2.8 tons. In addition, there is also the old four-ton bell for special occasions, which hung freely in the tower until 2000.

The large city-hall clock is placed on the south side of the East Tower. The clock face has a diameter of 8.6 metres. The minute hand is 5.72 metres long and weighs approx. 200 kg. The hour hand weighs approx. 175 kg. The astronomical clock on the middle facade of the City Hall facing the city is 5 metres in diameter. Apart from ‘citizen’ time it also shows sidereal time. A large dragon hand reacts in the event of solar and lunar eclipses. A lunar globe displays the phases of the moon. The clock also shows the date.

A number of the best-known artists in the country participated in the decoration of the City Hall. The sculpture of Harald Hardrada on the west wall is by Anne Grimdalen, the painted wooden reliefs with motifs from the Edda facing the courtyard are by Dagfin Werenskiold, the St. Hallvard figure on the couth wall is by Nic Schiøll and the six sculptures of workers in front of the south facade are by Per Palle Storm. Others who participated were Reidar Aulie, Ørnulf Bast, Asbjørg Borgfeldt, Harald Dal, Arne Durban, Nils Flakstad, Joseph Grimeland, Odd Hilt, Agnes Hiorth, Per Hurum, Karl Høgberg, Kåre Mikkelsen Jonsborg, Per Krohg, Emil Lie, Emma Mathiassen, Willi Midelfart, Axel Revold, Alf Rolfsen, Lily Scheel, Alfred Seland, Aage Storstein, Henrik Sørensen, Synnøve Thorne and Hallvard Trætteberg. The works feature the history and the various forms of livelihood, great men through the ages, everyday life in town and country. The still closely felt and lived-through period of the Occupation was made into a frieze by Alf Rolfsen in the hall. At the windows facing the harbour hang the representation of the labour movement and trade opposite each other, which some may possibly view as a symbolic expression of the class struggle now having been replaced by constructive cooperation. Generally speaking, the city-hall art conveys a strong impression of the optimism and community spirit of the age. Since being built, there has been extremely little additional decoration. The first new decoration of the facade did not come about until 2007 with the Fridtjof Nansen monument on the west side.

The running of the City Hall is taken care of by the City Hall Administrative Service, set up in 1945. It is responsible for the City Hall as a building, for events, etc. The City Hall is used, among other things, for the annual award of the Nobel Peace Prize.


In earlier times, Oslo probably held its council meetings in the Gildeskål building or at the lawspeaker’s domicile. One such, Bjarnegården with an alderman’s house, is mentioned in 1324. This was possibly the town’s first council venue. Information is scanty about the period prior to the moving of the city in 1624 about where the council actually met. In 1641, it became possible to start using a proper city hall after having had a provisional council room for a number of years. The latter still exists (Nedre Slottsgate 1), close to what was then the city square, Christiania Torv. In 1734, the city administration moved to Rådhusgata 7, which it had received from the king, as the old city hall was extremely dilapidated. No. 7 was used as a city hall and city room until the early 1840s.

The city authority (Magistraten ) and executive committee then moved to Dronningens gate 11, while the city council for a number of years held their meetings at the stock exchange (Børsen). In 1900, the city council and executive committee moved in the old Masonic Lodge (Logen ) on Grev Wedels plass; right up until 1940 this building was called the municipal premises. The municipal offices were spread out at various locations in the city.

A number of plans regarding the location and construction of a new city hall had been turned down over the years (architectural competitions in 1876 and 1898), right up until Hieronymus Heyerdahl put forward a plan in 1915 for the urban renewal of the old slum area of Pipervika and the building of a new city hall there.

The ideas competition was held in 1916, the plan competition in 1917-18, won by Arneberg and Poulsson. Their competition project was a medievally inspired building with a tower. They were employed as city-hall architects and continued their work on the plans. Gradually, they considerably modified their winning proposal. A large part of the old housing in Pipervika had to be demolished to create space for the new city hall. The cornerstone was laid in 1931, and during the 1930s the area underwent a complete transformation as the hatching city hall with its two sturdy towers began to soar up while the old buildings disappeared. An important part of the city-hall regulation was that the old amusement park Klingenberg was to be pulled down and replaced by a circular parade ground in front of the City Hall (Fridtjof Nansens plass). The surrounding buildings, with one exception, were erected between 1937 and 1941, based on a facade proposal from the city-hall architects. By the late 1930s, the city hall had come so far that it was possible to start using a few of the offices, but because of the Second World War, it was not ready to be used until 1947.

The war years

As early as 1939, the painter Henrik Sørensen had moved from his studio in Nedre Slottsgate to the three new studios in the West Tower, which at that time were half-completed. And already on 9 April the Germans appropriated most of the office space. In the East Tower: basement level, 3rd, 4th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th floors. In the West Tower: 7th and 8th floors. Among others, Flak Gruppe Oslo, part of the Luftwaffe, had offices in the City Hall, and machine guns were placed on the roof of the West Tower. These were used during British air attacks. During these years, work in the artist studios mostly stopped. The German occupying power labelled some of the art planned for Oslo City Hall as ‘entartet’, particularly that of Aage Storstein. But this meant that the studios lost their function as a meeting place. In one of the floors underneath, the Germans had an officers’ mess for flying officers, and Sørensen’s proficiency as a portrait painter became known. This meant that he and his circle came into contact with German oppositional officers and that information could be passed via them to those in the Norwegian resistance. The work on completing the City Hall was taken up once more after 1945, and the ceremonial official opening took place in connection with the 900th anniversary of the city in 1950.