My Accidental Discovery of Oslo’s Underground Artist District

The entire cooperative community of Hausmania reminded me of the grungy feeling of Tacheles in Berlin.

Oslo Norway street art 4
Oslo Norway street art. PHOTO Louis Alcorn

These days, people know Norway for more than just its beautiful fjords and blonde women. With the addition of the world-renowned Oslo opera house and the renovation of the harbor district along the Oslo fjord, the Norwegian city has established itself as a potential capital of art and design of Scandinavia aside Copenhagen and Stockholm. Whether via car, train, boat or plane, the contemporary faces of the Opera House greet visitors upon entering the city. This amazing piece of architectural genius sports the title as the only opera house in the world that allows visitors to walk all the way from the front entrance to tip top, all while ascending the diagonal slant of the roof – at your own risk of course.

Oslo Norway street art
Oslo Norway street art. PHOTO Louis Alcorn

Intrigued by the fundamentals of Scandinavian design, I ventured to the Norsk Design og Arkitektursenter (DOGA) which holds various exhibitions relating to design, architecture and other related subject areas. It seems to be a popular student hang out as well seeing that the café sat teeming with university students cramming for exams. The exhibits on display during my visit included a small rendition attributed to the design of Arne & Carlos Norwegian knit sweaters and a display of a city plan of a cooperative town environment to be built in rural Sweden.

Oslo Norway street art 1
Oslo Norway street art. PHOTO Louis Alcorn

From here the barista directed me to check out an art collective up the street called Hausmania. After having viewed nearly every art gallery in every city that I’d visited, I assumed that I was just going for another run around the same old track. I wandered on through the back gate of this collection of houses. After poking around the inner yard looking through the varied graffiti artwork, someone kick started their motorcycle and left the gate, locking it behind him. Now, I was left standing alone in the middle of the central yard of this artist co-op with a camera around my neck without the slightest idea of an exit strategy. I wasn’t even sure whether this place was private or open to the public, but after wandering around for a bit I stumbled upon a few people sleeping at the rear of the yard.

Oslo Norway street art 5
Oslo Norway street art. PHOTO Louis Alcorn

I passed the next two hours simply sitting down with these two guys talking about everything from the inner workings of their collective to American politics to smuggling drugs. Both of them were Brazilian immigrants with somewhat legitimate Portuguese documentation. According to their description, Hausmania holds the studios of upwards of 100 artists ranging from shoe makers to graffiti artists. Technically, as the law sees it, no one “lives” there and it is zoned as a workplace. The yard also doubles as an event venue for plays and live music which provides revenue to maintain and build the collective.

The entire cooperative community of Hausmania reminded me of the grungy feeling of Tacheles in Berlin. Hausmania provides a venue for underground art and design via occupation of a complex within the bounds of an otherwise very clean, conservative community in Oslo.

Oslo Norway street art 2
Oslo Norway street art. PHOTO Louis Alcorn

Louis Alcorn

As a San Diego native, Louis lives by his ultimate travel tip: take a minute in each place you visit to collect your thoughts and write them down. They tend to be invaluable when you look back in the future.

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