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Norway saves tower hit in Breivik blast

Norway's government will knock down three of the four buildings damaged in the 2011 bomb attack mounted by terrorist Anders Breivik, but preserve the brutalist tower which was the killer's main target.

Norway saves tower hit in Breivik blast
The Y-Block (left) and the government high rise (right) before Breivik's attack. Photo: P Fagerback
"We need to pull the story into the future: to change, but also preserve," Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg told an Oslo press conference. 
 
The compromise decision, which ends three years of agonized debate, will see the demolition of the 'Y-Block', which boasts a facade by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and is rated one of Norway's most valuable pieces of modernist architecture. 
 
However it saves the high rise, a 1958 masterpiece by the brutalist architect Erling Viksjø,  which formerly housed the offices of the Prime Minister. 
 
A government-appointed committee concluded last year that the best solution in economic terms would be to knock down the entire government quarter. But Solberg said the government had decided against this. 
 
"We've wanted to bring our common history into the new quarter," said Ms. Solberg. "We want to keep the façade of the H block, the square in front of the block and its integrated art."
 
Kjell Magne Bondevik, a former Norwegian Prime Minister, said keeping the high-rise building would symbolize Norway's refusal to change following Breivik's politically-motivated attacks. 
 
"It's important that the high-rise is preserved. Both because it is an important symbol of political life in Norway, but also an important response to Anders Behring Breivik," he told Aftenposten. 
 
Several architects expressed their sadness at the decision to knock down the Y-block, however, with Hege Maria Eriksson, the head of the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture, described the decision as "sad" 
 
"The Y-block and the high-rise form an interaction, and are part of the same architectural and artistic work," she said. "The decision to demolish is going a little too fast."
 
Jan Tore Sanner, the country's minister for local government and modernization, said that the government had been convinced to demolish the Y-block because of the possibilities created. 
 
"We want the new Government Quarter to become green and open," he said. "That would have been difficult if we had kept the Y-block." 
 
Demolishing the Y block, the R4 building and the S block is expected to cost some 15.5 billion Norwegian krone ($2.6 billion). 
 
Sanner said that the Y-block's Picasso-designed facade would be preserved, although he did not explain how that would be done. 
 
"The art, the seagull and the fish, will of course be taken care of. These are the most important artworks, and we're concerned that they are safeguarded," he said. 
 
The explosion, on July 22nd, marked the start of Breivik's bomb and gun massacre. 
 
Eight people were killed in the blast and many more injured. Breivik then went on to kill 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labour Party summer camp on the island of Utøya outside Oslo.  

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PICASSO

Picasso murals removed from Oslo building damaged by Breivik

Despite protests, the removal of two murals designed by Pablo Picasso began on Monday from an Oslo government building damaged in right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik's 2011 attack, a project manager said.

Picasso murals removed from Oslo building damaged by Breivik
The mural “The Fishermen” by Pablo Picasso and the Norwegian artist Carl Nesja is scaffolded at the Y-block in the government quarter in Oslo on July 27th. Photo: AFP

The “Y Block”, a government building complex named for its shape, is scheduled to be demolished due to damage from explosives that Breivik set before going on a shooting rampage, killing a combined 77 people.

On its grey cement walls are two drawings by Picasso that were sandblasted by Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar, who collaborated with the Spanish master painter.

On the facade facing the street, “The Fishermen” depicts three men hauling their oversized catch onto their boat. In the lobby, “The Seagull” shows the bird, its wings spread wide, devouring a fish.

 

On Monday, the works, weighing 250 and 60 tonnes respectively, were enclosed in massive metal supports to be transported away and stored nearby, according to Statsbygg, the public agency in charge of overseeing the demolition.

“The operation is very slow” and should be completed by Thursday or Friday, site manager Pal Weiby told AFP.

The plan is to integrate the works into a new government building scheduled for completion in 2025.

Opponents of the project, both in Norway and abroad, have been mobilising in recent years to save the building, calling for it to be renovated and preserved as has been planned for its neighbour, “Block H”.

“Block H” was home to the prime minister's offices until Breivik blew up a van loaded with 950 kilogrammes (2,100 pounds) of explosives at its base, before he went on to carry out a mass shooting on the island of Utoya.

In addition to hoping to preserve an architectural work typical of the 1960s, opponents of the destruction invoke a symbolic argument: that the government buildings should remain standing even though the right-wing extremist tried to tear them down.

READ ALSO: New York's MoMA calls for Norway to save Picasso building

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