Oslo’s Y-block with Murals by Picasso demolished By Erling Viksjø, Oslo, Norway, 1969

© Helge Høifødt

The Norwegian Government has decided to demolish one of its most important modernist monuments. A monument by the architect Erling Viksjø, with contributions by Carl Nesjar and Pablo Picasso. A monument that survived a terrorist attack in 2011 and remained structurally sound. A monument of European importance that must be saved.

We are talking about the Y-block from 1969 which forms together with the H-block from 1958 the modernist contribution to the government quarter of Oslo. Just before the attack in 2011, both buildings were about to be granted protection by the Directorate of Cultural Heritage. Experts, inside and outside of Norway, agree on its immeasurable value and try to convince the government to stop the demolition plans. Without any success.

The Y-block is one of Viksjø’s most beautiful buildings that is constructed in Naturbetong, a special concrete casting technique he developed together with engineer Sverre Jystad that was patented in 1955/1957. The possibilities that lay in this new material with sandblasted surfaces were decisive for Picasso’s contribution and lead to a 17-year long collaboration with the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar. The development of Naturbetong with its integration of art is a unique contribution to Norwegian and international modernism. Only one more building worldwide, the House of Architects in Barcelona, have this kind of integral art by Picasso and Nesjar in public space.

Tearing down a building with such exceptional architectonic, artistic, historical and symbolic value is wrong in so many ways.

The Norwegian Government should be proud to have a building, that withstood a terrorist attack. An attack against humankind and democracy. Instead, the Y-block is now, more than ever, a symbol for humankind and democracy. If it is taken away, a part of the history will be lost that cannot be replaced or withdrawn.

In times where democracies all over the world are under threat, the Norwegian government is in the duty to rethink this decision.

Docomomo International, invite you to sign urgently the petition that could prevent the destruction of these remarkable building of Modern Architecture. With this petition, we demand to keep the Y-block. We demand to reconsider other solutions. There are plenty.

To sign the petition, please click here.

Institutions that support the Y-block:
The Norwegian UNESCO Commission
National Trust of Norway
ICOMOS – International Council on Monuments and Sites
The Twentieth Century Society
Europa Nostra

[28th July 2020 Update

Following a years-long legal showdown between the state government and a globe-spanning group of activists, demolition work kicked off this week at Y-Block. Last-ditch efforts to preserve the murals and the Brutalist building as on – including an impassioned letter sent to Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg by MoMA’s Martino Stierli, chief curator of architecture and design, and Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture – have failed as officials remain unswayed.
The demolition, which first involves the removal of the murals, has been met with a fresh round of protests. The demolition of Y-Block and the removal and relocation of the mural is estimated to cost $6.4 million.
Government officials announced plans to officially move ahead with the razing of the Erling Viksjø–designed bureaucratic office block back in March with the intention to extract the pair of murals and incorporate them into a still-fuzzy-on-details redevelopment scheme.

Information from The Architect’s Newspaper]