In the autumn of 2019, the architect office Atelier Oslo won the competition for Fotografihuset at Sukkerbiten with this proposal, which goes by the name "Trelett". © Atelier Oslo / HAV Eiendom / Fotografihuset.

Fotografihuset will make Sukkerbiten attractive all year round

Published 01/26/2021

By Jonas Ekeberg
artistic and general manager

For us who love photography, and for the entire population of Norway, it is fantastic that we now have an opportunity to establish a photography house in the middle of Oslo.

Fotografihuset will become a popular institution with broad appeal, where you will be able to experience the best of Norwegian and international photography in all genres. The main emphasis will be on artistic and documentary photography. But we will also present advertising photography, fashion photography, nature photography, amateur photography and much more. One of photography’s secrets is that aesthetic excess and critical knowledge can be found where you least expect it.

Our three main focus areas will be exhibitions, communication and meeting places.

Fotografihuset will become a place for experiences and immersion, and that starts with the exhibitions. We aim to become fantastically good at creating exhibitions. In the technical language, it is called curating. Why is this so important? Because there are so many photographs in this world! Just on a single photographer’s hard drive there can be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. Selecting, presenting and contextualizing this, in collaboration with the photographers, is an enormously interesting and challenging task. This is where the wonderful photographic narratives are created. And this is where we become able to ask the critical questions about power and powerlessness, about who we are as people and how we should live together.

But Fotografihuset will be more than exhibitions. We will, of course, publish books and catalogues, arrange seminars and lectures, not only for those interested in photography, but for everyone who wants to get involved in the debate around the images. In addition, we will offer high-quality learning experiences for everyone, from school classes to master’s classes. At Fotografihuset, communication and the public will come first. We will ensure that everyone feels welcome, and that everyone can get something out of our exhibitions, events, courses and lectures. It’s a promise.

In addition, the Fotografihuset will become a meeting place. We look forward to seeing families, photographers, art enthusiasts, concertgoers, restaurant guests and bathers flowing in and out of our premises. We will have a foyer that acts as an extension of the free space outside, and we will welcome you even if you are just charging your mobile phone or borrowing the toilet. We will also have a basic offer of free exhibitions. The larger exhibitions will cost a little, as it does in many places. But we must first and foremost be a popular and accessible photo and cultural center, and a positive contributor, both to Norwegian cultural life and to the local environment in Bjørvika.

When we open – hopefully within a few years – we will offer four programmes:

Main program (exhibitions, publications, seminars), Outreach program (tours, lectures, courses, workshops), Cultural program (film, literature, music, dance, theatre) and Partner program (collaboration with, among other things, the photography associations and sponsors).

We believe and hope that this will be content that will please both Oslo people and visitors. But it is not something that comes by itself. Culture is something we must fight for, and something that must be prioritized politically.

Such a fight and opportunity to prioritize culture in Oslo will come in the spring of 2021. Then the city council in Oslo comes with a report on the small island of Sukkerbiten in Bjørvika. Here we have the plans ready for a fantastic photography house of over 3,700 square meters, a real great room for photography.

The question is whether this unique place in the middle of the city will become a public space where a photography house and open space are combined, as our plans suggest. Or if the whole island is to become a free area, as a group of local enthusiasts in Bjørvika and parts of the city council want.

The latter may sound like a good idea. But a purely cultivated open area on Sukkerbiten will primarily become a local park for large parts of the year for the already privileged residents of Sørenga and Bjørvika. With a combination of photography house and open space, Sukkerbiten will, on the other hand, be an attractive place to visit all year round, both the 60 days when there is warm bathing weather and the 300 days when the weather is more varied. Not least the thought of enjoying a cup of hot cocoa with a view towards Hovedøya on a cold winter’s day, after seeing a great photo exhibition, should be alluring to more than just photography enthusiasts.

The house we hope to visit at Sukkerbiten was designed by the architectural office Atelier Oslo. They have also designed the new Deichman Bjørvika. The project is called Trelett, and is a fantastic, Nordic-inspired and pavilion-like building, which does not draw attention from the Opera and the Munch Museum. It is a building that we will largely share with the residents and visitors to the area in that large parts of the first floor will consist of free exhibitions and service offers. At the back, we are planning sea stalls designed for, among other things, sauna bathers and boaters.

Fotografihuset will occupy less than a third of Sukkerbiten. The remaining part of the island will become a free area and wharf facility. In other words, everything is in place for an excellent interaction between culture and outdoor life at Sukkerbiten. It is important that the politicians and us as Oslo people seize this opportunity, and make the plans for a photography house in Oslo a reality. It may be a long time until the next time such an opportunity arises.

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