Art, architecture and buildings in the Government Building Complex

Regjeringskvartalet, the government building complex, is located in central Oslo and has been owned by the government for more than 200 years.

Strictly speaking, the government building complex is not a single entity, but stretches over several streets and buildings. Block G, which now houses the Ministry of Finance, was built in 1906. The high-rise block (H Block) was completed in 1958.

Building development has continued until 2012, when the latest government building, R6, was occupied.

Both the H Block, which was completed in 1958, and the Y Block, completed in 1969, were designed by the architect Erling Viksjø. The decoration, carried out in the new material “naturbetong” (a type of concrete), was a radical new departure – the architecture and the art are so closely merged that they are inseparable.

The art in the New Government Building Complex

After the terrorist attack of 22 July 2011, a major effort was made by Public Art Norway (KORO) and the Norwegian Government Security and Service Organisation (DSS) to find and preserve the art in the damaged buildings. A total of approximately 1000 works of art were protected, cleaned and stored by KORO.

An art plan will be prepared for the new Government Building Complex. The plan will also encompass any return of art to the complex. The preparation of plans for both new and existing art will take place through a cooperative effort by the responsible ministries, DSS, Statsbygg and KORO.

In Block Y there are two integrated works of art, both based on sketches by Pablo Picasso and sandblasted by Carl Nesjar. They are the works “The Fishermen” on the exterior wall (8.2 x 13 m) facing Akersgata, and "The Seagull" (3 x 3 m) in the reception area.

In the new Government Building Complex, Block Y will be demolished. The area where Block Y now stands will be replaced in part by a park and in part by a new building. The works “The Fishermen” and “The Seagull” will be preserved and come into their own again in the new Government Building Complex. Statsbygg will propose a location for the art in consultation with KORO.

The Ministry will clarify future use of the two integrated works of art in Block Y with the rights holders. In any case, any Government decisions concerning the artwork in the damaged government buildings will be dealt with in accordance with Norwegian law (Copyright Act).

The final decision on the placement of the two works of art “The Fishermen” and “The Seagull” will be made in the preliminary project, i.e. no later than in 2019.

The art in the H-Block and the Y-Block

The best known artist to decorate the building was Pablo Picasso, who was invited to contribute by Viksjø and the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar. Picasso created three original motifs: The Beach, The Seagull and The Fishermen (in two different versions). A fourth motif, Satyr and Faun, was based on a previous work. The original of the latter can be found at the Picasso Museum in Antibes. Picasso’s sketches for the Government building building complex were transferred to concrete by Nesjar.

Beside Picasso, four young artist were invited to decorate the H Block: Tore Haaland (1918-2006), Carl Nesjar (b. 1920), Inger Sitter (b. 1929) og Odd Tandberg (b. 1924). Carl Nesjar etched sketches by the artist Kai Fjell on the concrete as well as Picasso’s drawings. Erling Viksjø, the architect, was fond of art and often cooperated with artists. Viksjø himself was also responsible for the pictograms on the facades, the decoration of the pillars and smaller interior wall surfaces.

The art in the H-Block

The artworks are to be found in the reception area, on the walls of the stairwell and on the facades facing north and south.

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)
8th floor, south wall The Beach
8th floor, north wall The Fishermen
11th floor, south wall Satyr and Faun

Kai Fjell (1907–1989)
Reception area

Tore Haaland (1918–2006)
12th floor, north and south walls
14th floor, north wall

Carl Nesjar (b.1920)
Reception area, together with Inger Sitter. Now hidden by building alterations
2nd floor, north wall (with Inger Sitter)
4th floor, north and south walls
10th floor, north and south walls
13th floor, north and south walls

Inger Sitter (b. 1929)
Reception area, together with Carl Nesjar. Now hidden by building alterations
2nd floor, north wall (with Carl Nesjar)
3rd floor, north and south walls
6th floor, north and south walls
7th floor, north and south walls

Odd Tandberg (b.1924)
5th floor, north and south walls
9th floor, north and south walls

Erling Viksjø (1910–1971)
14th floor, south wall
All decoration on the pillars and smaller wall areas
Pictograms on the facades

Source: The National Museum and The Directorate for Cultural Heritage 2013

Buildings in the Government Building Complex

These are the buildings in the Government building complex, year of construction, adress and architect. Where possible, click for further information:

  • The G-Block – 1906. Akersgata 40. Architect Henrik Bull.
  • The H Block – 1958. Akersgata 42. Architect Erling Viksjø.
  • The Y-Block – 1969. Akersgata 44. Architect Erling Viksjø.
  • The S Block – 1978. Einar Gerhardsens plass 3. Viksjø arkitektkontor.
  • Møllergata 17 – 1988. Einar Gerhardsens plass 1. Viksjø arkitektkontor.
  • Møllergata 19 – 1866. Became part of the Government complex in 1981.
  • Grubbegata 1 – 1939. Became part of the Government complex in 1999.
  • R4 – 1988. Einar Gerhardsens plass 1. Viksjø arkitektkontor.
  • R5 – 1996. Akersgata 57-63, Teatergata 2-4. Architect Torstein Ramberg AS.  
  • R6 – 2012. Teatergata 9, Keysersgate 6-8. BA Arkitekter AS.

Statsbygg, the Directorate for Public Construction and Property Management, owns and manages the buildings in the Government building complex.

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