Beyond Paradis

Stavanger, Norway

Studio Egret West was recently invited to undertake a ‘parallel assignment’ to consider the future transformation of the area around Paradis station in Stavanger on Norway’s west coast. The challenge was to introduce some well needed office accommodation and a critical mass of development in a predominantly small scale residential neighbourhood and yet appear seamlessly integrated.

The ambition that Studio Egret West has for the intensification of Paradis is to become an exemplar of multi-layered landscape urbanism. That means developing the site to be symbiotic with the surrounding environment, and to learn from the characteristic fjord landscape that Stavanger is world known for.

The intensely programmed ground floor is wrapped in a rich and verdant landscape that give visitors a sense of being surrounded by nature when up close; the mid and upper levels are chiselled and tapered to resemble the characteristic rock formations of the Stavanger fjords, with façades composed of a glazed envelope wrapped by adjustable louvres in hues that echo the colours of the natural landscape; the translucent upper level merges with the sky and the clouds when viewed from afar; the folded and variegated roofscapes create a fifth façade and a gentler and more animated silhouette.

The built fabric is a magnification of the traditional Stavanger grain which is dominated by an informal grid of houses in gardens with an inherent suburban quality. The result is a loose structure of plots in landscape, shaped to allow for wide wedges of green open space to wrap around the buildings. An upper level bridge provides a safe pedestrian/cycle link across the water, connecting surrounding residential neighbourhoods via Paradis station.

Our long term vision is to install a continuous public realm from the open and natural environment around the Gand Fjord to the historic waterfront around Breiavatnet and Vågen. We call this landscape the Stavanger Søm – a seam that helps reintegrate this slither of land into its context and stitch together the currently separated residential neighbourhoods on either side of the valley by forging new connections where at present there are none.

This linear parkland could be what the High Line is to New York, or what Park Rio is to Madrid – an inhabited natural landscape that takes its cue from the surrounding fjords, a world class attraction that showcases the wonders of the Norwegian nature for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike, inviting people to come to Stavanger to walk the Stavanger Søm. A sequence of water elements – ponds, swales, sustainable urban drainage and fountains – extend the full length of the Søm, guiding visitors from one end to the other and making sure that one is never too far from the trickle of water.