ØB celebrated 20th year of practice in 2016. When the two partners started in 1996 they had a strong desire of designing public spaces on various levels, and this desire is still strong. Østengen & Bergo has during the last 20 years worked with landscape architecture and local development in every scale – from pocket parks to regional plans – always with high ambitions regarding giving every project a green profile to enhance public health and wellbeing. By having the users contribute with their knowledge and wishes, with the human scale in mind, the firm have completed several complex school, transportation, and public space projects from the early sketching phases to completion. In all our projects, we aim to be environmentally conscious – thinking about all the aspects ranging from biodiversity, rainwater management, materials to recycled materials.
Skjervsfossen, ©Østengen & Bergo
“We always seek sustainable and functional solutions that inspire and invite to recreation and activity. Looking back over the past 20 years the ambitions behind each project and what we seek to accomplish is the same – we still want to enhance green space in our public environment. The difference is the public’s awareness, through changed regulations. Rainwater management has particularly in the bigger cities become a strict requirement, not only an environmentally conscious contribution to our design. So has design for everyone, “universal design” that grants equal access for everyone.”
During the last 20 years, there has been a large range in our projects. In the years from 1997-2005 small, degraded, private courtyards in central areas where rehabilitated through a state program. The program was a pioneer in developing ecological system in landscape design – with rainwater management and user involvement. These thoughts where implemented in Meyerløkka (2004) focusing on assembling several small yards into one large, private park within the city block.
Meyerløkka, © Østengen & Bergo
In the same period, another interesting program was set forth by the government – Environmental road upgrading – turning heavily trafficked, noisy roads into slower village streets for everyone. In the project Vollen, the existing road was moved both horizontally and vertically so that it would fit the landscape better, and new walkway along the seafront was enabled. This measure gave the village its old center back, and it was awarded with the national “Beautiful roads award” in 2008.
Vollen, © Østengen & Bergo
The first school was Bakkeløkka middle school in 2004. A school in the forest with no drains, handling all the rainwater on site. It was awarded the national School buildings price 2002.
Bakkeløkka, © Østengen & Bergo
Kastellet school (2004), won 1st prize in “school of the future” in Oslo. Rommen school and cultural center (2009) was built with green roofs, and a varied specter of activities to engage youngsters living nearby. Hokksund (2012) is centrally located in the town of Hokksund and the school was designed, as many of our schools are – as a neighborhood park with activities for the youngsters both during and after school hours. In the later years, several public space projects have been implemented.
The National Library park, © Østengen & Bergo
The National Library park (2005) was a competition we won by merging an old existing park around an existing library with a modern park around the extension thus creating a new park in the urban neighborhood.
© Østengen & Bergo
Schandorffsplass, © Østengen & Bergo
Schandorffs plass (2009) is a pocket park that used to be a parking lot. A pathway surrounded by perennials provide a green experience as one passes through. It is designed with access for everyone in mind which resulted in the Award for innovative universal design. Lørenskog square (2011) was designed as a cultural meeting place where the site should be as flexible as possible. By adding water as a feature, the space is active when it is not filled with people. Our latest public space is the new National museum of art in Oslo, centrally located by the harbor. When it is done in 2020, it will be an important cultural square in Oslo.
Skjervsfossen, © Paal Hoff
From 2008 and on we have worked on a few projects in the National tourist routes program, the most important one being Skjervsfossen (2015), where we with humble and careful interventions in nature facilitate for hiking and discovery in a beautiful landscape. A project that gave us the opportunity to do Dalsnibba (2016). A private project set at 1500 meters above sea level providing landscape architecture for spectacular experiences.
During the past 20years we have designed 38 school projects where 22 of the projects are built and two under construction. One of the challenges in Norway is excessive wear and low maintenance budget. School yards must withstand heavy use. Our aim is to make the children proud of their school yard so that they take special care of it. Experience has shown that schoolyards are a very important neighborhood park. In all our other projects, we analyze the site to find its distinctiveness to give each school its own expression. For new schools, we insist on working with the architect in the early phases to prevent the most valuable areas – nature and vegetation – from being built down. If the site has any existing nature, we often build our concept around that. The most successful schools are often those where we have had an extensive period of user participation during the planning. The various locations in Norway have various traditions, games, interests and activities and we always seek into that. When working with student with special needs we try to integrate their needs silently into the projects with no special attention, so that all children play naturally at the same area. We also work to establishing educational opportunities, providing the schools with outdoor classrooms, and integrating educational information about plants, nature, as well as other subjects like science in our design. It is important for us to get an attractive and exciting landscaping that engage kids and youth of all genders and take the focus away from mobile phones and activate them. Our attitude is that there must be space for various activities with multifunctional use, especially for the oldest ones as the real struggle is providing space for youth as they tend to get bored or not challenged enough.