- Oslo is strongly shaped by its natural setting: 68% of the municipal area is publicly accessible green space.
- The City of Oslo’s cultural policy is designed to ensure an inclusive city which promotes community cohesion.
- A new Munch Museum will open on the Bjørvika harbour front in 2020, with a larger proportion of the collection on display.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 480.76 sq. km
- Total population: 673,469
- GDP (PPP) million: $50,984
With a history dating back to around 1000 AD, the city of Oslo is the capital of Norway and its political and economic centre. Oslo is strongly shaped by its natural setting: 68% of the municipal area is publicly accessible green space, including the Marka forest which extends within and beyond the city. A public transport system plus major new urban architecture that works with, rather than against, the environment has created a city where tourism, sustainability and modern business have been successfully entwined. The city is growing, with over 680,000 people in the municipality of Oslo, and around one million people in the wider urban area.
The City of Oslo’s cultural policy is designed to ensure inclusivity and community cohesion, facilitating a diverse cultural scene. This is exemplified in a number of major cultural buildings recently opened around the city’s harbour. The Deichman Library opened in June 2020, with programming which extended the idea of how a library space can be used. It offers the chance for visitors to watch films, make podcasts, learn to play the piano, sew a dress and use the 3D printers, as well as read books. Munch Museum, a 12 storey building housing the world’s largest collection of Edvard Munch’s work opened in October 2021. Most recently, the National Museum opened in June 2022 on the Aker Brygge harbour front. These major city centre projects are complemented by plans for new district libraries and ‘culture stations’ where children and young people can pick up knowledge, skills and culture at a more local level.
Oslo is the hub of the country’s creative sector, and home to the largest share of its creative economy. This was protected for a long time by Norway’s low unemployment and social safety net, creating good conditions for creativity. However, the pandemic had a greater effect in larger cities in terms of layoffs and bankruptcies than in other parts of the country. Audience return has also been far below pre-pandemic numbers, with more niche venues especially suffering. This has been compounded by wider social forces such as growing economic inequality and population growth.
The City has taken some steps to address this, including the use of municipal buildings, particularly schools and libraries, to provide space for out of hours cultural activity. The City also provides a limited number of studios and production spaces for professional artists at below market price, and a City Art Fund is used to buy and commission art for public spaces and buildings. It is also rethinking its grant giving processes, drawing from what it learned during the pandemic, to offer funds in ways which collaborate more deeply with the sector.
Developing the cultural life and skills of children and young people is an important focus for the city. The municipal Oslo School of Art (Kulturskolen) offers subsidised courses and training across a broad range of arts, crafts, music, theatre and dance, which are in high demand. A number of cultural institutions are also involved in projects with youth and other demographics who rarely visit, encouraging them to express themselves and even consider creative sector careers. The Keys to the City project is one example of this.
The interaction between the city and the natural world has always been a focus for cultural and other projects, but this has a new urgency and comprehensiveness due to the climate emergency. Since 2016, its Car Free Liveability Programme has removed traffic from a growing network of streets in Oslo’s historic city centre, and there is an ongoing commitment to rethink everything from buildings to tourism and festivals, to create a more sustainable future.
The City faces the future intent on developing the creativity of its younger citizens, making significant strides on environmental action and breaking down the demographic and socio-economic barriers to arts participation, to create a society where all citizens can benefit.