Ensjø Not exactly a walk in the woods

Project information
-- m²

Project contact

Kurt Singstad

+47 918 03 727


The whole idea of what a city block can be, is turned upside down when Mad Arkitekter build the city block into the forest at Ensjø.

It’s not often one looks at a concept for urban development and think “WOW!”

However, this was the reaction when we presented our plans for the conversion of an old industrial area to residential complexes on Ensjø in Oslo.

This is a project where classical typologies and familiar elements are shuffled and reassembled in a way that the result looks unlike anything one has seen before. On top of it all it makes one think that this was in fact a damn good idea.

A house in the woods

The concept is as simple as it is elegant: The cherished typology with the large city block is taken out of its usual context as part of a road network, and is placed a little more arbitrary across the large site, with no overriding straight lines or grid systems.

This is followed by the planting of dense and lush vegetation. Not inside the courtyards as one might think – but anywhere else, making the large residential buildings suddenly find themselves in a situation where every project is an island in a sea of green.

This is how a set of natural features, normally reserved for single-family homes in the countryside, is introduced in a whole new context.

"This is followed by the planting of dense and lush vegetation"

Outside in

With this much green on the outside, the spaces between the houses are cultivated with a different character, harder surfaces and other types of use. In a way the inside constitutes the urban space while the garden is located on the outside of the project.

Paths and internal communication are added between the different units, connecting the different projects with pedestrian paths and bicycle roads.

In this way Ensjø gets its own forest with concentrated residential complexes unlike any other in Norway.

Convenient and easy

Often radical acts have their backsides in the sense that what’s strong and clear are discarded in favour of practical matters. This is not the case here.

The project has a simple infrastructure and is naturally connected to surrounding roads. The buildings can easily be divided into different into different stages of construction and vegetation can be planted gradually as well as adapt to the situations along the way.

The only obstacle of the project is the imagination of the people and the understanding of the qualities that have not yet been proven. We believe our project on Ensjø is a watershed regarding willingness and ability to think completely differently about what kind of city Oslo can be.

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