The wooden city of Stavanger. Self image as a basis for development

Leroy Olaf Tonning


Stavanger, located as Norways fourth largest city on the south west coast, has developed swiftly from a rather marginal and poor town to be a dynamic and affluent centre for the off shore oil industry. A transition of this type can easily cause a community to lose its balance in managing the rapid changes that involuntarily will take place, losing its identity in the process.
Several factors have put their mark on the historic development of the city, mainly the contact with the sea and the use of wood as a main building material. The questions raised are how to analyze and value the genius loci of the city in order to take the necessary moves to preserve it, and how safeguarding can be done. Stavanger was designated to be a European Cultural Capital in 2008, and in presenting the programme, cultural heritage and development, innovation and quality, environment, aesthetics and architecture were chosen as important aspects. A scheme for development of wooden building culture, called Norwegian Wood was one of the main projects. The venture has confirmed and strengthened the impression that there is a mutual acceptance of the fact that wood as a material represents definite qualities to be preserved and developed, representing a common basis for future urban development. Nevertheless, there is a deficient in dealing with principled decisions and co-ordinated action to ensure future development to be implemented in the right direction.

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