Photo : Eilif Swensen

In the wake of terrorist attacks on Utøya, 22nd July 2011, Blakstad Haffner Arkitekter / Fantastic Norway was engaged to create a strategy for re-establishing of a political camp on the island in close collaboration with Labor Youth Party (AUF). During the phase of preliminary design ( Fantastic Norway was closed and Erlend Blakstad Haffner decided to devote his full attention to the project which was completed in 2016. Next to the memorial building additional buildings have been designed which facilitate the functional needs for activity in re-established political camp and cultural and memorial site of the island. 

Utøya square is central location to the site, created as meeting point and social arena for new generations of campers and visitors. The idea was to specify the open space which connects all other facilities, enabling for camps and conferences to be held there. The square which is surrounded by new buildings has approximately the same footprint as the old cafe building directly affected by the massacre. By interpreting its position and size through the proportions are assigned to the square, visual and symbolic connections were reinforced between new building facilities and the object of memorial and learning center. Following central idea of “Hegnhuset”, the design of the square and the additional buildings prevailed from the same approach to the cafe footprint where physical traces of the horrific attack of July 22nd were most intense and visible, and which was not supposed to be erased by the new structures, but carefully translated into the outline of architecture. New buildings on the square are erected in distorted angle, the same axis in which the structure of memorial building was designed. It represents and clarifies the shift, a new historical layer and a new chapter on the islands history.

For more than 60 years, Utøya has been Norway’s most important campsite, and has had enormous value for AUF and the young parts of the labor and trade union movement. The island has been a meeting point where engaged youth come together for a political workshop, and for culture, sports, friendship and love. These were the ideals that were attacked on 22.7.11. When we now return to Utøya, it is important to commemorate those who lost their lives that fatal day. Through telling their stories and showing how they lived and what they believed in, AUF will honor the memory of those who were lost on 22.7.11. This memory will forever be part of Utøya’s identity, and will be important also for future generations of campers. They should be able to create new, positive memories, so that the history of Utøya can continue. Utøya should strike the balance between memory and new life.

To accommodate new activities and democratic debate new buildings which house kitchen, dining hall and conference rooms have been built. The square from the beginning acted as a hub or a middle ground which enabled developing multipurpose spaces. The structure has been created by deploying two different profiles of spaces, varied in mass and transparency: horizontal which renders the opening of the ground floor towards the square, and vertical which closes up into the extended volumes of buildings with steeply pitched roof shapes. The new buildings have upgraded facilities that can accommodate up to 240 people. The spaces are interconnected and flexible, allowing for different room configurations and making possible to accommodate for groups of all sizes. This is important to ensure that Utøya can be used for many different purposes for many years to come.

Project manager: Erlend Blakstad Haffner
Team: Ivana Barandovski, Branko Belacevic, Petar Stelkic, Vladimir Cvejic and Filip Antic