A New Future for Industrial Infrastructure: Student Housing?

A travel guide once described Oslo’s Grünerløkka area and its landscape of industrial infrastructure as “a gritty industrial district on the wrong side of the Akerselva river.” Today, guides describe the area with phrases like “hipster paradise”. The arc of transformation began in the 1990s, when the city of Oslo re-zoned the area’s industrial buildings for residential use.

This allowed local firm HRTB Arkitekter to transform Grünerløkka’s iconic grain elevator and storage silos into Grünerløkka Studenthus, a 226-unit student housing complex. The 19-story building, known locally as “the student silos”, was converted by adding circular floor units inside the silos and cutting windows into their exterior. The top of the silos contain shared spaces, laundry facilities and a roof deck, providing exceptional views of the Oslo skyline from atop the 174-foot (53-meter) silos.

Originally built in 1953 to store corn from Oslo’s Nedrefoss Mill, the silos were in operation until 1990. Students are reminded of the building’s history with an original grain trolley and flour scale in the entrance hall along. Initial local opposition to repurposing the silos eventually transitioned to championing the building as an icon for the rejuvenated district. 

“The transformed building stands as a monument and icon in the urban landscape,” noted the city of Oslo when it awarded the project the Oslo Bys Architecture Prize. “Its presence highlights and summarizes both the transformation along Akerselven and the re-vitalization of Grünerløkka.”

Most noticeable from the outside of the converted silos is the unique color scheme that runs horizontally across the exterior of each floor, devised by HRTB visual artist Lykke Frydenlund. The scheme runs through the interior of each floor along with custom furniture and interior designs created by Ingrid Løvstad, giving each level its own aesthetic identity, inside and out.

It is among several recent projects reusing industrial infrastructure for housing solutions.

This project and dozens of others are featured in the Reprogramming the City book!