The glass house and flower stairs

Explore the facts about the project


When the Anthon B Nilsen building was built in 1972 (Architects: Eliassen and Lambertz-Nilssen) a stair connection from the building's main entrance at the corner of Øvre Vollgate down to Rosenkrantz gate and Rådhusplassen was needed. In addition, a stair connection down to the pavement in Rådhusgaten was created. The main staircase is still in diligent use and was upgraded by NSW Arkitektur with new steps and a continuous flower box integrated on top of the existing concrete balustrade. Thus, it re-emerged as the Flower Staircase.

260 m²
Anthon B. Nilsen Eiendom
NSW Arkitektur

However, the stairs down to the pavement in Rådhusgaten were closed shortly after it was built, due to indecent activities. It was also regarded as unsafe.

When NSW Arkitektur was engaged by Anthon B Nilsen for extensive rehabilitation and rebuilding of the Anthon B Nilsen building a desire was expressed to reopen the staircase to the public. The central landing of the staircase had a significant extension into a technical room. It proved possible to move the technical installations to another place in the building, thus freeing up an area with seating for 60-70 people. In addition, the stair landings provide a view towards Akershus Fortress and Rådhusplassen.

Twelve years after the first sketches the glass pavilion became a reality – like the inviting restaurant Glasshuset. All this happened in a constructive and close collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Manager of Oslo. A holistic way of thinking about urban development and accessibility lies behind this project.

This is a small but somewhat unusual example of a transformation from one or more uses to a unique restaurant. Here, a complete glass volume has been created around the existing staircase that connected two pavement levels.

In collaboration with the renowned British lighting designers Speirs Major, a new and low-key landmark has been achieved close to the Town Hall Square, both day and night.

The Flower Staircase complements the Glass House, and gets fresh flowers every season, inspired by Italy and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons": In spring, all the boxes are filled with blue pansies. In summer they are replaced with summer flowers such as petunias. Autumn is time for heather and classic autumn colours, while as Christmas approaches, the boxes are covered with spruce branches and lighting.

Even the steps themselves have become multifunctional. In addition to the usual steps, some "elephant steps" were fitted – extra large steps that are suitable for sitting on. Here you can bring food and drink from Glasshuset, or one of the other nearby cafes, and enjoy the view on a beautiful summer’s day.