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Architects: MAD arkitekter
Year: 2019
Area: 4500 m2
Location: Olaf M. Holwechs gate 2, 1607 Fredrikstad, Norge

At the end of the 19th century the area surrounding Nygaardsplassen was full of traditional town houses, with yards and gardens stretching down to the banks of Vesterelva. Between the yards there were alleys and passageways, and spaces teaming with life; children playing, livestock and meeting places.

During the 1970’s many of the old buildings were demolished to make way for new, brick clad office buildings around the square and an underground carpark was established. People moved away, offices and introvert companies moved in and with that, the inner-city life surrounding the square was lost. Nygaardsplassen was for 40 years known by locals as ‘the dead space’. When a new planning regulation for Nygaardsplassen was agreed 8 years ago, it outlined plans to build a 4-6 storey shopping centre. The intention to integrate the proposal into the existing fabric of the site, would have resulted in every alley and passage being swallowed up by the new structure.

In 2013 Cityplan came to the table and acquired the square, carpark and one of the brick buildings. They realised that a shopping centre would mean the death of any future development of the city centre and decided to think alternatively. They concluded that careful programming of the traditional shopping streets would encourage people to use the city again and were willing to work to ensure that people would choose the city centre streets ahead of the shopping centres. Mad were charged with the task of designing the ‘new’ Nygaardsplassen. The orders were clear, a modern food market at street level along with 39 apartments, which they hoped would help bring back to the city the life which they deemed lost. What was once a forgotten space, with rubbish bins, chained up bikes and parked cars, has evolved into a piazza, reminiscent of those of southern Europe, with the new town square serving as a hub for the area. At the opposite end of the square, two new buildings of a combined 3500 square metres have been completed. These buildings establish yet another important urban space; a narrow pedestrian street with al fresco dining on either side leading to the square. The largest of these buildings is subdivided into 5 smaller segments, using four varying brick and bond types, echoing the original terraces of the area. All windows and doors on the ground floor are of oiled oak, whilst the windows of the upper floors are in a variety of colours, giving life and depth to the façade. All of this is done in order to provide a strong relation to the surrounding buildings, as well as a historical nod to Frederikstad’s brickwork tradition.

Photos by Kyrre Sundal