Marx Brothers movies and epic Queen albums aside, a night at the opera should offer more than just another evening out—just the idea of the experience is enough to evoke thoughts of black-tie glamour and big-time cultural consumption. In Oslo, the striking, glass-and-aluminum-clad New Norwegian National Opera and Ballet House by local architecture stars Snøhetta has been welcoming visitors to enjoy the performing arts since 2008 and, once inside, they’re treated to a site-specific installation by another Nordic notable, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s site-specific installation of luminous walls that define the space of the sky-high foyer.
Snøhetta describes the building’s sloping, marble-clad rooftop as a "carpet" that complements the cityscape, but Eliasson interpreted the shape as a more organic reflection of its surroundings—a striking silhouette that stands out on the harbor’s shore like an oversized floe. "For inspiration, I looked at the crevasses and tunnels located under glaciers," he explains in a statement about the project. "The life below and inside the ice is suspended in a much slower temporal sequence than the ‘outside’ world—only minor, sudden movements and vibrations can be detected." As such, his interior contribution interprets the idea of what lies beneath, but considering the significant use of light throughout his work, it’s not surprising that it plays a key role here as well. In this case, "waves" of natural and artificial illumination and shadows create an almost otherworldly effect against panels of repeating geometric patterns. Green and white light sources subtly shine on these translucent dividers from the ground up, coordinating to fade in and out almost imperceptibly from back to front and back again, offering a bit of intrigue and gentle visual drama to guests before the main performance begins.