Trondheim – the third largest city in Norway after Oslo and Bergen – was my urban respite from the natural wonders of the Lofoten Islands and of Iceland. While one-tenth the population of Chicago, Trondheim is a city steeped in history yet embracing modern design as well. Going from the wonderful Nidaros Cathedral, to the Bryggene (and wonderful, glorious tasting seafood), to the modern works by Norwegian firms such as Space Group and Pir II Arkitektur, Trondheim is a city of layers and well worth a visit. Now – to the sights!

Exploration around Trondheim

The Bryggene

The Bryggene is the historic home of Trondheim’s fishing industry – which is still very active today. It circles the city center along the Nidelva and is quite picturesque. I’d highly recommend a stop for lunch at Ravnkloa.

Trondheim Torg – Central Square

Trondheim is quite hilly – and gave this larger out of shape architect a run for his money. I made it up this hill on multiple occasions though…but sadly couldn’t use the bike elevator (didn’t rent a bike).

Kristiansten Fortress overlooking Trondheim

Trondheim has layers to it’s urbanity, which I always appreciate. Historic next to modern with modern taking cues from its context making a cohesive whole, with showcase pieces being located on the outskirts/harbor area. The highlights of Trondheim’s Architecture?

Nidaros Cathedral

Yes, I have a thing with churches. I’m not religious at all, and I know this is weird. I’m going to blame Eliel and Eero Saarinen for it. But, you have to admit that a cathedral with its entry facade covered in statuary is just completely awesome. The light coming into the cathedral was pretty great as well (although not near Saarinen’s First Christian Church or his son’s North Christian Church, nor the sunset light in Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja). My main complaint? They don’t let you take pictures in the interior. This is annoying to architects. Tourist attractions, please stop this practice.

Clarion Hotel – Space Group

What do you get when a golden alien spaceship lands on a combination of white fritted glazed masses and black perforated metal masses? The Clarion Hotel by Space Group. What I love about the building is you can read the program from the exterior. The black mass is the conference area, white glazing covers hotel rooms, and the golden alien connects it all together. I love the varying textures of the materials in the building as well – sleek fritted glazing, a golden skin that reminds me of Hans Scharoun’s Berlin Philharmonie, and an architect’s favorite material – perforated metal!

Rockheim – Pir II Arkitektur

A-Ha! I found it (next to the Clarion Hotel). I love projects such as the Rockheim – it’s a museum, it takes an existing building and adds to it, and creates a composition that creates a dialogue with each of the parts and with the city itself. It’s a Take On Me that I love museums so much – and the glazing being screen-printed with album covers of Norwegian Rock Bands (many I recognized from being mentioned in Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle books) is especially well thought out. The glazed bar is a statement much like rock.

You’re damn right I worked A-Ha’s Take On Me into that paragraph – in my defense Pir II included the album cover on the glazing (top center of image middle row).

RAKE Showroom – August Schmidt

One of the smallest buildings I visited on the trip outside of the Lofoten rest stops, the RAKE showroom is an exercise in reuse of building material. The entire facade is a melange of reused windows and doors, with an interior skin of glazing as well. The layering of the facade is the coolest aspect of the building.

The last few blog post cover the sights seen on my trip to Norway and Iceland for my birthday (author’s note: not a bad way to spend a birthday). Next up will be back in the states: one of the perks of working on a building in Kansas City is the chance to get to see Steven Holl’s Nelson Atkins Museum building. Well that, and awesome BBQ.

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Josh Mings

Architect and painter. Columbus, IN born, New Orleans educated, Chicago living and trying to leave the world better than I found it.