The Government begins the demolition of Block Y in Oslo, affected by the attack by Anders Breivik in 2011, despite citizen opposition
After almost seven years of collective protests, lawsuits and international claims by organizations such as the MoMA in New York and the College of Architects of Catalonia to prevent the demolition of the so-called Block Y, part of the complex of the government district of Oslo, the Norwegian Government He has not given his arm to twist and has started work this week on the brutalist-style building, designed in 1969 by the architect Erling Viksjø. The block, which houses two murals made by Pablo Picasso, was affected by the explosion of the car bomb that the terrorist Anders Breivik placed in 2011 and ended the life of eight people, and then added another 69 victims that same July 22. on the island of Utoya.
The demolition of the building, of which some interior walls have already begun to be demolished, entails the removal of the large mural that crowned its facade, Los pescadores, 1970, a work by Picasso made with the technique of sandblasting in collaboration with the artist Norwegian Carl Nesjar. In addition, as was also foreseen, another mural by the same authors, La gaviota, has been taken down, a smaller piece that decorated the interior of the building. According to Gro Nesjar, daughter of the artist who died in 2015, the work has been carried out at night, "without anyone seeing it." The fishermen are currently protected by an iron fence, while La gaviota rests on the ground in the street covered by plastic.
"We knew that the demolition was going to start, because it appeared in all the newspapers, what seems strange to us is that they do it at night", explains Nesjar who, together with the architect's grandson, Espen Viksjø, has taken legal action against the Government Norwegian when considering that as descendants they have power to decide on the future of the works. "We consider the building to be lost, because they have already begun to demolish it," he regrets. "But it would seem to us a good idea if the murals were moved to the national museum: you could put The Fishermen on the outside and The Seagull on the inside," he suggests.
At the end of this week, the pieces will be moved to warehouses they will be kept until at least 2025, the date scheduled for the completion of Block A, a new building the Government plans to redeploy the murals. The project costs, according to the Norwegian news agency NTB, amount to SEK 59 million, about 5.5 million euros. "It is slow, the operation will take time," said Paal Weiby, a member of the government agency in charge of the project, in statements to NTB collected by AP. "We hope that everything goes as planned."
In a statement posted on its official website, the Norwegian Government details that Block Y, which activists in its defense consider to be a unique and inseparable work of art along with the murals, must be shot down "for security reasons." The space, which until 2011 was the headquarters of the Ministry of Education, could have been repaired, as defenders of its permanence argue. For the Government, however, its location on a tunnel through which traffic circulates makes it impossible to "use Block Y for ministerial activities." "On the contrary," they add, "demolishing it allows the creation of an open, safe and green government neighborhood that works well for the city, its citizens and the Executive."
The decision to keep the murals "in closed boxes" and keep them for years out of public view has been described as "shameful" by the Norwegian National Heritage, according to the newspaper Aftenposten, which also includes criticism of the project by part of entities such as the Oslo Heritage Office and the Norwegian College of Architects. According to the same newspaper, in the time until the works of Block A are finished, two printed copies of the works will be exhibited in a plaza of the government complex.
The fishermen, a 250-ton piece, represents a group of workers in a boat at work, a scene that for Gro Nesjar symbolizes the spirit of Norway before the oil era. There are only two similar pieces in the world, one of them, the Frieze of the giants, integrated into the facade of the College of Architects of Catalonia, in Barcelona. "In this time of confinement, the work has become a benchmark: many people have been involved in saving the building," says the heiress, who believes that the demolition and transfer of the murals violates the artistic intention of Picasso and Nesjar, who consciously wanted to present the design as an integral part of the building and show it “framed by the sky”.
In April, the civil movement against the demolition of the building lost the lawsuit that it had filed against the government requesting the temporary stoppage of the demolition, although the final resolution of the trial is scheduled for the month of August. Since 2015, Los pescadores has been on the Europa Nostra association list with the seven most threatened monuments on the continent. Other organizations such as UNESCO or the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) have expressed their opposition to the destruction of the building.