Understanding the Site

The historic Tukthus quarter [Tukthuskvartalet] from the eighteenth century was a prison taking up a whole quarter in central Oslo built on two floors with a church in the centre. The history of the place as a prison witnesses a dark heritage, which is associated with a difficult, shameful, and painful past. This negative history was perhaps one of the reasons why people did not oppose the demolition of the buildings, which was announced publicly in the media in 1938. During the 1930s, the property was gradually separated, and the buildings were demolished. Only parts of the prison walls remained, which, with its ruin-like appearance, yielded an anecdotal storytelling materiality. In 2000, a new urban plan with the new buildings were completed, with the restored ruined wall of the prison integrated as part of a new restaurant and traces in the asphalt crossing the local street. It continued through a large new office building complex containing a police station and more restaurants.

The prison called ‘Tukthusgården’ in central Oslo, then Christiania. © O. Væring, ca 1910/Oslo Museum.


Heritage has become purified and transgressed, partaking in the contemporary life of the area’s vibrant nightlife, where heritage is used anecdotally, staged and branded to create a good atmosphere for consumers socialising in nearby cafés and squares. The planning process of the Tukthus quarter has largely been an expert-driven ‘formal’ and ‘authorised’ process, where the discussions and disputes have been between urban planners, architects and heritage managers.

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