Aker’s Mechanical was the first construction project as part of the Aker Brygge Masterplan. Originally built by Aker’s Mechanical Industries in Oslo in the middle of the 19th century as production facilities for maritime diesel engines, the buildings underwent major changes in the 1940s, 80s and early 2000s in the conversion to shopping mall and office building. The large volumes were filled with floor slabs to the point where hardly any spatial qualities remained, and numerous alterations, including the incorporation of a theatre with stage tower, resulted in a bespoke and chaotic structure.
The series of reconstructions, façade alterations and added exterior elements gradually erased the building’s original character. The office spaces were inflexible and the retail areas did not attract enough customers as an introvert mall unrelated to the surrounding streets.
The new project reorganized the program, pushing the shopping to the ground level and exteriorizing the shops and corporate lobbies in order to activate the streets. The building renovation focused on 6 main elements:
Meeting the street, including major works to the ground floor of the building to make internal levels correspond to street levels. The existing façade, which is freed from all the add-on elements from the 1980’s, returned to its pure form and articulation, and remodelled to maximize the connection between retail, restaurants and the adjacent streets. The voids that are created by subtracting elements from the existing structure, generating a porous mass reinstating some of the spatial qualities of the original building in retail-, restaurant- and office areas. Bridging the atrium, and thus connecting the floor plates across the entire building allowing for a more efficient use of the deep floor plates by distributing programme according to access to daylight. The Corporate lobbies representing the offices on street level with their own addresses, and thus activating and applying a corporate character to the side streets. The Clean Cut is a new internal shopping street, a trajectory through three buildings as one arm in the Aker Brygge Star as envisaged in the new Aker Brygge Masterplan. The building’s exterior was cleaned up; extension and front elements were removed, windows on lower levels given new and sleek steel profiles, sills under windows cut away so that the building can contribute to an active street environment. The project was developed in close dialogue with the Local Heritage Authorities.
Retail and restaurants fills the ground floor new double height spaces created by the removal of floor slabs along the building perimeter. Major structural work was undertaken to both raise and lower the internal floor levels to meet street levels. A new internal shopping street cuts through the building, as part of a new clean cut connection also running through the adjacent buildings, which linking the square in front of the City Hall to Aker Brygge’s main internal plaza.
The offices were reorganized to bridge the former longitudinal atrium, so that the space could be utilized better in terms of flexibility in size and maximizing the potential of the deep floor plate, reorganizing functions based on access to daylight. Floor height is low, and slabs were removed to give variation in heights, a quality rarely found in modern offices. The office lobbies were moved from their previous shopping mall location to the streets, giving the side streets a corporate identity, differentiated from the restaurant promenade at the water side and the shopping street to the rear of the buildings.
The new Aker’s Mechanical has attracted quality tenants in finance, retail and the restaurant industry, and has become a new up-market location for offices, shopping and eating in Oslo.