photo by Jens Passoth

“Another wall” by Olafur Eliasson, in the interiors of the Oslo Opera House

Like a great block of ice in the bay of Oslo, this Opera House appears with its candid, glittering surface, square and irregular and with large inclined surfaces that emerge directly from the water. The visitor entering the hall encounters a white and bright environment also on the inside, where the great “Wave wall” becomes the new facade of a dark casket concealing the secret of this architecture. In the darkest side of the large entrance area, where the ceiling meets the floor, dovetailed volumes with luminous surfaces can be found: it is a matter of a creation by Olafur Eliasson. “The other wall” is the name of the work by this extraordinary and sensible artist from the North, chosen as a result of a competition by invitations by a public commission that decided that this specific location could represent a challenge for an artist who could resolve a problem of space, in the best tradition of synthesis between arts, by integrating contemporary art and architecture. The site on which the competition centred has determined the decision, as it is precisely the blind room on the side where the oblique roof becomes a square immersed in the sea (which ices over during the long Nordic winters, forming a continuation of the architecture itself). Here, three irregular volumes contain the bathrooms and small technical rooms, forming another wall according to the dynamic proportions of the foyer. The challenge has consisted of modelling this interior wall to give it a new visual and tangible dimension: an atmosphere of suspension, created to accentuate the intense sensations of the experience of living inside the theatre. Studying glaciers with their fissures and the life frozen within them, Eliasson has elaborated the material, symbolic and sensorial model of this permanent installation which transforms static and blind volumes into a kind of luminous and cold material that breathes, like arctic glares under the pressure of the ice covering it. The result is an integration between immaterial elements – lights and shades – and ornamental motifs similar to crystallized ripples on the water, between a new notion of time spent waiting and the idea of space in movement, which keeps changing its appearance.
The installation consists of a surface of 340 sqm of a grid featuring a variable geometry, with perforations shaped like horizontal lozenges that turn vertical towards the top. The surface of the screen is three-dimensional, with small concave pyramidal volumes that make it possible for the shades to project themselves on all the facets.
The structure is in MDF and white-varnished metal, and is fixed to the wall at a variable distance (from 5 to 50 cm) along the entire perimeter of the walls. Two sources of artificial lighting are provided: a white one installed in the wall facing the grid, which illuminates the geometric pattern frontally, and another green one which is built into the back of the panels, which illuminates the wall behind the openings with a grazing and low light. An automatic system alters the intensity of the lights in front of and behind the work, creating a waving and three-dimensional rhythm to the perception of these screens. A work that hovers between the materialization of an idea, like the landscape created by water in its solid state, and the dematerialization of an architectural margin, which embraces the visitor between temporarily vibratile luminous surfaces. A gift of stars, even by day.