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Severe setback for new building

April 30, 2006

Bergen National Academy of the Arts was supposed to move to new premises in 2009.000 Last spring an international architecture competition was held won by the Norwegian company Snøhetta. Recently the project hit problems as estimated costs had increased compared to the initial budget. Because of this the project was put on hold by the Ministry of Education and Research in March. Two days ago Statsbygg (The Directorate of Public Construction and Property) decided to cancel the project altogether and instead initiate a new competition. At the same time another major challenge for the project was getting closer to a solution the architectural plan for all of this area and the relationship between the KHIB and the surrounding buildings.

The estimated costs had increased by approx. 25% or 85 million NOK. Of course that is substantial but on the other hand: How much will the added rent of current premises for at least three more years add up to? And the costs of a new competition? Add to that expected increase of costs due to inflation etc. Building costs tend to increase much faster than average inflation. In the end: How much will really be saved due to the recent decision? What would be gained in terms of quality of the building architectual standards etc. by instead pushing forward? Statsbygg is arguing that when the cost increase compared to initial specifications the project has to be cancelled in order not to undermine the competition principle. In my opinion this is a consideration that should be dealt with a year ago when judging the different candidates. That is when estimatet price of the various alternatives should be critically reviewed. I would be very surprised if a new competition draw anywhere near the same international attention as last year.

Working at KHIB we experience at a day to day basis the limitations of the current situation. KHIB is scattered all over the town. Some of the departments are split over two or more buildings. The policy of the school is to encourage transdisipline collaboration within and between the departments. Both staff and students seem eager at this as well. However the distance from one builing to another severely limits to what degree staff and students from different departments accidentally meet and talk or take a cup of coffe on a day to day basis severely limiting the possibilities for informal networks to establish themselves across the departments. As a member of the IT comitee I also see first hand how expenses for computers software etc. increase because of limited possibilities of sharing resources across departments. Unless the decision on cancelling the Snøhetta project is reversed it will take at least three additional years before KHIB might be able to move to new fascilities.

Some politicians have reacted strongly against the decision most notable the parliament member Å got Valle of The Socialist Left Party and she has promissed to contact the Ministry of Education and Research over the weekend. The minister is from the same party so we have to cross fingers and hope that this will have some effect.