Tuesday, 11 May 2010

My latest article: Linstow, the architect who shaped the capital

I have an article in Aften today (external link) about Hans D. F. Linstow, the architect whose main works are the Royal Palace and Karl Johan Street in Oslo and who, in unison with the King for whom that street is named, shaped the new capital in the years following Norwegian independence in 1814.
But as he struggled with the Palace for 25 years and died in a tragic way two years after its completion he had the chance to build little else. Never quite understood by his contemporaries and forgotten by posterity, his grave was erased some decades ago, but this summer he is commemorated by an exhibition at the National Museum, the first to be dedicated to his work since 1922.
The photo shows his two major works: the Royal Palace and Karl Johan Street leading up to it.


  1. Trond, nice to see you take on this architect's story! I wish I could read your article, but appreciate your efforts and the other link with information you posted. My introduction to Oslo was from the train station, and the view up Karl Johan to the palace is indeed a wonderful one, as is the actual journey up the street. A lovely way to experience the city!

  2. Although I might be partial I must say that personally I find Karl Johan Street one of the stateliest streets in Europe and a processional route fully on par with Unter den Linden, Nevskij Prospekt and others, which is even more important considering the small size of Oslo at the time. The location of the Palace, chosen by King Carl Johan, is also superb, making it a more dominant feature of the cityscape than any other royal palace in Europe (perhaps Budapest comes closest).

    If you are interested in reading more about Linstow I can mention that there is a book published to go with the Linstow exhibition which opened at the National Museum a week ago - the book is bilingual in Norwegian and English and is titled "Slottet og Linstow - Den nye hovedstadens grunnstein/The Palace and Linstow: The Cornerstone of the New Capital", edited by Ulf Grønvold and published by the National Museum. I will write more about the book and exhibition here at some later date.

    I could also add that there will be longer and more scholarly articles by me about respectively Carl XIV Johan and the development of the new capital in his reign and Linstow and the possible architectural influences on the Royal Palace in Norwegian periodicials later this year. But both of them will be in Norwegian, while a review article about the exhibition will appear in a English-language periodical. All of them will be mentioned here when they appear.

  3. Despite different characters, Oslo reminded me of Paris in some physical respects, street design one of them, and the Karl Johan "experience" is certainly similar to a smaller Champs-Elysee.

    I will look forward to reading more about Linstow. Thanks for the recommendation and the heads-up about future entries, Trond!

  4. Harry Fett (a legendary art historian who was Director-General of the Directorate of National Heritage for ages) actually made the same comparison of Karl Johan Street to Champs-Élysées with the Palace in the place of the Arc de Triomphe. But Linstow's references/influences for the street are mainly found in Germany, first and foremost Ludwigstrasse in Munich but also Unter den Linden in Berlin. Linstow dearly wanted to spend half a year in Paris when he embarked on his educational tour of Europe in 1836, but for unclear reasons the King (whose relationship with the country of his birth was marked by a strong ambivalence) vetoed that suggestion and decided that he should go to Denmark and Germany (and Italy if there was time).

  5. Interesting! Trond, thank you for all of this wonderful information. Having never been to Berlin or Munich, I'm curious if the "Paris" influences I see have traveled to Germany and were then picked up by Linstow. The pedigree of design is such an interesting topic, parallel to that of people.

  6. I can warmly recommend visiting both Munich and Berlin if you have the chance, as they are both wonderful and interesting cities. For a preservation architect I suppose both cities might also be of added interest as prime examples of cities which were to a great extent destroyed during WWII and rebuilt in the following decades (a process which is still going on in Berlin). I think one could say that in general the difference between the two cities’ approach is that Munich has rebuilt things as quite faithful replicas of the originals, while Berlin has chosen to “reinterpret” some of the lost buildings.

    What Champs-Élysées and Karl Johan Street have in common is that they rise towards respectively the Arc de Triomphe and the Royal Palace, making these structures dominant points de vue of the streets. Unter den Linden and Ludwigstrasse are on the contrary quite flat. What sets Champs-Élysées apart from Karl Johan Street, Unter den Linden and Ludwigstrasse is that it does not have the series of great monumental buildings on either side.

    Ludwigstrasse was probably the street which influenced Linstow the most, but his plan was only executed in part as the southern side of Karl Johan Street became a park. This displeased Linstow, who had wanted buildings on either side (as on Ludwigstrasse), but today most people seems to think that this was a good compromise as it has made the street lighter and more alive – Ludwigstrasse is on the contrary quite deserted except for the car traffic.

  7. I thought that park at the end of the street was a wonderful 'break', allowing people to breathe. If my memory is good, it also corresponds with the north/south axis that leads to the Munch Museum and other places. I shall definitely want to go to Berlin and Munich one of these days. From my mother, we're descended from Bavarian protestants who left in 1754 for Philadelphia, so it is a place high on the list!

  8. I believe you must be thinking of University Street/Roald Amundsen Street, which form a north-south axis which crosses Karl Johan Street - it begins at the City Hall and ends up at St Olav Square, having passed by the National Gallery on the way (the Munch Museum is a bit from the city centre). This street, as well as Rosenkrantz Street (its parallell) and Parliament Street (parallell to Karl Johan Street), was sketched by Linstow in 1838, but actually laid out at a later date by Christian Heinrich Grosch.

    Concerning the royal architecture of Munich I would recommend David Watkin's article "The Transformation of Munich into a Royal Capital by Kings Maximilian I Joseph and Ludwig I of Bavaria", which can be downloaded as a PDF:


  9. Kære Trond N.I.
    Hvad er din kilde til, at dronning Anne-Marie fra sit exil skulle have spurgt sin mor ud om et NATO-møde i København?
    Venlig hilsen,
    Else Boelskifte, journalist,
    Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten

  10. Det kommer fram i ei kritisk bok om det greske monarkiet som utkom i Storbritannia i fjor. Jeg kan finne den nøyaktige referansen til deg hvis du ønsker. Du kan også lese mer om boka her:



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