PhD-Research:The Tjuvholmen Townscape – Prospectus-driven urban developments in Oslo.

 “In spite of the scrutiny to which the entrepreneurial city has been subjected, there has been a surprising lack of attention given to the architectural form of such redevelopments, particularly the myths and meanings which they themselves project.”  – Phil Hubbard, “Urban Design and City Regeneration: Social Representations of Entrepreneurial Landscapes” – Urban Studies, Vol. 33, No. 8, 1996


The thesis’ focus is on an empirical study of Tjuvholmen, a large land reclaiming project and urban design scheme at the Oslo harbor front, whose completion in 2014 is representing the preliminary conclusion of an era of urban planning and an organization of urban management in Oslo introduced by the initiation of “Aker Brygge” in the early 1980s. While “the entrepreneurial city” (Hall & Hubbard 1998) and its resulting “packaged landscapes”(Harvey 1989) have been thoroughly addressed in the context of  the current planning paradigm found in the Oslo region, and “project driven urban planning” have been analyzed as a municipal development strategy, the spatial outcome of these projects are more crudely approached. In recent practice relevant research, E.Børrud’s work on the public/private dialectics in urban development processes is informative, while in regards to urban space, H. Haslum’s project on “socio-spatial interplay” has related trajectories of discourse to those conducted here. However, research on urban spaces as architectural objects and manifestations of specific forms f architectural production within the “entrepreneurial city,” remains to be explored in the Oslo setting. This is the point of departure for this doctoral work.

The thesis thus addresses the relation between urban morphology; the physical urban fabric as form and space, and its development structure, meaning the political, economical and strategic framework the project is developed within. In urban morphology theory, this is discussed through the term “morphogenesis” (Moudon 1994): The making and development of urban form.

The research is meant to provide the architecture discipline and urban planning professions with an increased understanding of the logics of urban space development within a specific mode of architecture production and regime of urban planning through context specific knowledge of based on the case study of Tjuvholmen, Aker Brygge and the emergence of the “Fjord City” vision in Oslo.


Main research questions

The thesis explores the spatial outcomes of a specific form of urban development found on Tjuvholmen. The research question is threefold, but evolves around the basis of Tjuvholmen seen as a physical end product of architectural intention and political strategy as well as being a real-estate development concept.

A: Tjuvholmen as “urban space”: the spatial organization, volumetric disposition and architectural articulation of urban fabric. Are there spatial conditions or organizations in terms of urban morphology, architectural articulation or programming that can be mapped, discussed and analyzed as direct consequences of the framework described above and if so, how does these relations emerge and under what conditions?  This fundamental question is addressed through the morphological analysis of Tjuvholmen.

B: Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge as “urban environments”: Areas that, intended or not, convey specific meaning, imagery or spatial conditions as defined by architects, ownership groups or other actors involved. How are these urban spaces and areas utilized as architectural “feature” and property development tool in urban development processes, through “place-making” strategies, and how does this affect or become affected by architectural production and planning strategies?


C Tjuvholmen as architectural project: The architecture of Tjuvholmen both as a whole and as collection of individual works is saturated with architectural intention and design. How can we discuss the “relative autonomy” (Rossi 1967) of the architecture discipline in projects that carry intent and vision both defined and articulated by architectural practice forms as well as political and economical aspiration?  Through a discourse on the conception and the production of urban space, the thesis discusses the relations between disciplinary practice and the framework in which this practice is conducted, through urban space developments like Tjuvholmen.


Finally, the thesis discuss this “modus operandi” through introducing the term “prospectus based urban development” – A phrase developed in the thesis to encompass and describe specific logics in real estate development and their spatial manifestations, as found on Tjuvholmen.

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