Økern Sentrum Logo
11. Feb 2021

An urban development with historical roots

Økernsenteret logo på bakken nb

Økern has a rich and varied natural and cultural history. From farmland in the 19th century to homes and marketplaces in the 20th century and a shopping centre with metro station since the 1970s. For many years, the area has been a central meeting point for many of Oslo’s residents, which also means that many feel a sense of ownership of the area and the various cultural monuments that exist.

From farming to industry

The name Økern comes from Øykrin or æykrin, which is composed of æykr (oak) and vina (meadow), which alludes to the area’s former oak forests. As early as the 19th century, Økern was one of Oslo’s largest and most important industrial areas. Workers flocked to the brickworks from across the city, and Økern established itself as an important hub with good opportunities for businesses.

The property where the old police station stood was separated from the farm, Økernly, in 1899. In 1936, the property was sold to businessman Trygve Rønning, who converted parts of the ground floor into business premises. First there was Økern’s first little post office, then hardware and paint shops, and finally Økern grocery store. In the 1960s, Økern became the city’s largest marketplace for fruit and vegetables.

In 1969, the high-rise block was completed and was Norway’s tallest commercial building, with the metro station integrated underneath. The Økernsenteret served many central functions, with a police station, bank, grocery store, bakery, jeweller, watchmaker, bookstore, educational institutions, and district administration. The centre was the cultural destination and “community centre” of its time.

Økern grocery store, 1950. Photo: Oslo Museum, urban history collection.
Activity in the square at Økern in 1962. Photo: Oslo Museum, urban history collection.
Økernsenteret and landmark high-rise in the 1970s. Photo: Labour movement’s archive and library, Arbeiderbladet.
Street traders and jeweller in the original Økernsenteret. Photo: Oslo Museum, urban history collection.
Community centre in the original Økernsenteret. Photo: Labour movement’s archive and library, Arbeiderbladet.

Modernist and international landmark

The Seagram Building in New York from 1957 with its characteristic curtain-wall facade and open and urban spaces has served as a model for many modernist landmarks around the world. In 1961, New York changed the regulations from 1916 to offer height bonuses for buildings that included open ground-floor spaces, with Seagram Square as a role model.

Architect Håkon Mjelva probably drew inspiration from well-known modernist buildings such as the Seagram Building when he designed the high-rise block at Økern Sentrum.

Emphasis on the preservation of cultural heritage

Today, Økern Sentrum is characterised by fragments of different eras. The plan for the Økern project has a broad cultural heritage perspective and will capture and promote Økern’s rich history through a future-oriented approach. The high-rise, for example, will be retained and renovated. The high-rise will remain the focal point for the new Økern and, as the building complex develops, we will draw inspiration from the original Økernsenteret by opening up a ground-level urban space.

In addition to retaining the high-rise, the Hovinbekken and Refstadbekken streams will be reopened, having been encased in pipes for several decades. Historic vegetation and greenery will be restored, and the historic crossing point between Økernveien and Ulvenveien will be recreated in the form of a new connection to Lørenveien. Økern will again be a bustling and lively hub for the population, with the creation of retail, culture, workplaces, and homes.

Own cultural heritage report

The plan proposal is rooted in Økern’s rich cultural history. As part of the planning work, a cultural heritage report has been produced that features a strategy outlining how the values of cultural monuments, environments, and the cultural landscape in and around Økern Sentrum are embodied in the development work. In addition, there is a description of the impact on the cultural monuments.

The strategy places emphasis on the stories of the area rather than on individual monuments and has been written by the project’s cultural heritage consultant, Erik Langdalen, and SWECO.

The report can be downloaded here.

About Økern Sentrum

Read about how Økern will go from being an industry to an urban, sustainable and vibrant city center for the whole of Oslo

Read more