Unstructured Cities Trondheim

The city, and its architectural, building and sustainability cultures

Trondheim’s architectural building culture, its university research and courses, recent and ongoing projects, and its sustainable and vernacular building culture


Trondheim (190,00 population) is a significant centre for building and architecture culture, although as the third largest city in Norway - after Oslo and Bergen - this culture is also considerably smaller than in the capital.

Photo – Ned Alley, Scanpix

Trondheim lies on the river Nidelva, with the old city and cathedral sitting on an island within an oxbow river bend; Midtbyen. On the southern side of the island's centre, is Torget Square.

The city grew rapidly in the late 19th century, and the building of a series of docklands, including an artificial harbor, Brattøra on the seaward front, followed by Nedra Elvehavn dry docks and Nyhavna to the North East. Inland, beyond the Nidelva, Trondheim topography rises quickly, with the city's suburbs mainly built on higher, hilly ground including Strinda, and Tiller, and Byneset. To the immediate north-east are two districts, Lade and Charlottenlund, with housing and urbanisation continuing, threading eastwards along waterfront towards the airport and Stjørdal, the nearby dormitory town.

The principal areas currently affected by of urban planning and city development can be divided between: i)  E6 road corridor, where the Norwegian Technical and Scientific University (NTNU) Olav's Hospital, and knowledge based companies are found to the south of the city and ii) the old dockland districts -  Brattøra, Nedra Elvehaven and Nyhavna

Nedra Elvehavn, Brattøra and Nyhavna

Photo - Christoph Silvanus Wikipedia (Open Source)

Nedra Elvehavn – the site of dry docks was converted through the 1990's into a pedestrianized area including a large shopping mall, restaurants, and other retail and commercial buildings, plus waterfront residential homes. Some of the old industrial buildings have been refurbished for new uses, including the Sunny Side shopping mall.

Photo – Wikipedia Open Source

Brattøra – Site of Trondheim’s main container port and railway station, plus regional ferries and a large cruise ship docking ports, Brattøra has been the subject of a major masterplan makeover through the 2000’s. Close to completion, this includes the ongoing private-public investment in the new Brattøra harbour district. This distinctly underwhelming (if not terminally unsuccessful) development, includes PIR II’s Rockheim Music Centre the glitzy and garishly ugly Clarion hotel (by Oslo’s Space Architecture Group), and Snøhetta’s showcase Brattøra Zero Energy Building Office building (see the Trondheim research piece) One of the last projects to complete is the remodelled railway station, again by PIR II.

Nyhavna – This major docklands site is the new focus of development attention, after initial Europan competitions focused on its 42 hectare land plot. Nyhavna’s changes are only in their first stages, and even with the complexities of the WW II U-Boat Bunkers (see the Svartlamoen feature) this will be the focus for developers, urban planners and architects over the next years.

Trondheim Association of Architects

Trondheim is one of the more active branches of National Association of Norwegian Architects, the Trondheim Association of Architects (TAF) with 353 members currently.

TAF estimate that there are between 800/1000 architects working in Trondheim.

TAF members were founders of the Røros Seminar, a two-day springtime conference in the Unesco World Heritage town of Røros

2017’s Røros Seminar is on the 28-29-30 April 2017.

Speakers include Field office Architects, Taiwan, Rahul Merothra, India, Assemble, Britannia, Avanto, Finland, Frida Escoban, Mexico, Nathan Romero Spain/Denmark, Lars Fasting, Norway, Vardø Restored, Norway – and Ingerid Helsing Almaas.

The Norwegian Technical and Scientific University

The city and its economy is dominated by the NTNU. Ongoing expansion is increasingly clustered along the main road corridor, the E6 national road, part of a planning strategy to expand Trondheim southwards, at a master-planning and campus development level with projects ranging from student accommodation to new research headquarters and partnerships, such as St Olav's Hospital.

University development and the built environment fold into Trondheim's 2020 city plan objectives for becoming an internationally known Technology and Knowledge City, with projects such as NINA (see the PIR II piece) and St Olav's Hospital's Knowledge Centre examples of this.

Nordic City Network

Trondheim is a member of the seventeen strong Nordic City Network. The 2015 Nordic Urban Projects 450 Urban Projects Report provides an overview of the cities.

Live Studio – Photo NTNU Live Studio


NTNU is the largest Norwegian university, with 39 000 students, and trains the majority of the county’s technical and scientific students, including 80% of civil engineers. A significant part of NTNU’s research is in partnership with SINTEF, Norway’s largest Independent foundation for research and innovation.

Two major joint research programmes are Klima 2050 focused on climate adaptation and ZEB Living Lab which has emerged out of the Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings. See also the Trondheim Built research feature.

Trondheim NTNU's experimental Zero Energy Building – Photo Oliver Lowenstein

NTNU’s Faculty of Architecture & Design is splint into four department’s. Architecture is focused in the Department of Architecture and Technology and the Department of Architecture and Planning. The Faculty’s 2011-2020 Strategy report is titled Knowledge for a better world

Other research groups include the Light & Colour Group, TransArk - Building Conservation, Smart Cities@NTNU - People, design and technology for a better world and the Wood Center.

Live Project in Senegal - Photo NTNU Live Studio

Courses include a 2 years Masters in Sustainable Architecture, 2 and 5 year Masters in Architecture and 2 year Masters in Urban Ecological Planning

NTNU’s Architecture Faculty supports and mentors NTNU Live Studio and the student run Studio Beta (in Norwegian) projects, an exchange centre for organizing and participating in live projects

Check website for further information on the NTNU Live Studios including the NTNU Live Studio Handbook.


The Pan-European Hozlbau network's conference, Wood Forum Building Nordic 2017 is in Trondheim this year.

Rural Studio's Andrew Freear at Røros Seminar 2015 – Photo Hans Skotte

Trondheim architecture – Some recent and ongoing projects

“The mainstream in Trondheim is very mainstream,” according to NTNU tutor Bjorn Otto Braaten. Below is a cross section of projects. If they echo Braaten’s words they also reflect where Northern Europe’s architectural mainstream is at. The projects also highlight something of the mismatch between the youthful energies animating the scene and the prevailing industrial, corporate momentum currently remaking chunks of Trondheim’s city centre.

ARC Arkitektur

Verftsgata 2 - One of the most recent completed projects at the edge of the city’s Nedra Elvehaven dockside developments. Sits along the river’s canal section.

Photo ARC

Eggen Arkitetur

Asveien school - Asveien is Norway’s first Passive House school up in the hillside suburbs. Eggen completed Asveien in 2015


The Knowledge Centre

Ratio Arkitekter, Nordic Office of Architecture, Narud Stokke Wiig Architects, COWI and Asplan Viak - St Olav's Hospital, The Knowledge Centre

The Knowledge Centre is the latest completed project in the fifteen year plus redesign of Trondheim’s main hospital. For a helpful overview see Arkitektur N no. 5, 2016

Photo Nordic Office of Architecture

Moholt Timber Towers, Kindergarten and student village master-plan

MDH Arkitekter Moholt Timber Towers, Kindergarten and student village master-plan by Oslo’s MDH Arkitekter, (with the student housing is short-listed in the MIes Award 2017.) These Cross laminated timber student housing are being promoted as a significant step forward for Norwegian CLT building.

Photo – Ivan Brodey


Trondheim has become a regular focus for several rounds of Europan, with Point Grande's Svartlamoen project – see the Svartlamoen feature winning Europan 10, and Europan 13 was awarded to an Italian team, whose False Mirror Project re-imagines Nyhavna.

Agraff Arkitekter

Agraff Arkitekter's Sparebank, was the lowest energy office in the country when it was completed in 2010.

Photo – Agraff

Snohetta – Powerhouse at Brattorkaia

Norway's starchitects Snohetta's high profile Brattørkaia Zero Energy Building is part of the ongoing ZEB and Powerhouse research programme, one of four Powerhouse projects.

Render image - Snohetta

MEK Architects

MySpace Teknobyen Student Housing

This student housing is on the main road in and out of Trondheim, the E6, one example of the expansion of NTNU along the southern corridor. MEK Arquitectos, were three students who won the Trondheim Europan 9 competition. Since then MEK have disappeared although Murado and Elvira run their own studio

Photo Matthias Herzog

Two smaller projects/practices

Bjorke Arkitekt’s Trond Klubbhus   completed in 2011, by the small Trondheim practice run by Rune Bjorke.

Photo Pasi Aalto

Studio Fredrik Lund, a respected one-man band architect completed the Husøy arena football clubcentre in Tonsberg – in South East Norway – between Summer 2013 and the following summer 2014.

Photo - Fredrik Lund Studio

Sustainable focused projects and vernacular and historical building culture

Sustainability and the built environment

There are a range of explicitly sustainability and built environment related initiatives in Trondheim and the surrounding district.

These include major NTNU research programmes, such as the already referenced Zero Energy Building research, though also Brøset, a major Government backed eco-district, as well as small-scale commercial materials projects such as Norsk Spon, producing locally sourced timber cladding.


Brøset is a 35 hectare eco-district project four miles from Trondheim. A showcase ‘City of the Future’ Government funded initiative Brøset has been extensively discussed, researched and talked up, although eight years on from its launch the project hasn’t to date got off the ground.

Norsk Spon

Norsk Spon – is a small locally sourced timber production factory in Melhus, south of Trondheim, specializing in pine  shingles production.

Photo - NorskSpon

Vernacular and historic buildings

There is a wealth of old and vernacular buildings in the inner Midtbyen area of Trondheim. These include Nideros Cathedral, the waterfront warehouses, and a sizeable number of historic timber houses and housing in the inner city and inner suburbs.

The Nidaros Cathedral and The Archbishops Palace

The Nidaros Cathedral and The Archbishops Palace, dating from 1170 sits in the middle of Trondheim's island inner old city, is considered by some to be the best example of Gothic architecture in Scandinavia.

Photo - Vincent J (Open Source)

Waterfront warehouses and wharf buildings

Trondheim river waterfront features what are considered some of the best remaining examples of the country's vernacular tradition of waterfront trading and storage warehouses. Although some have been neglected and fallen into disrepair, the conservation and other NTNU departments have focused on renovation solutions, including architect Eileen Garmann Johnsen, whose restoration research and practice essay is featured in this Unstructured Extra.

Photo – Eileen Garmann Johnsen

Timber Housing

Although not as large as Stavanger, Trondheim has many traditional timber houses in the centre of the city, and they can be found close to the warehouses, in Bakkelandet (Old city), Lademoen, immediately to the east of the city centre.

Photo - Municipal Archives of Trondheim

Sverresborg - Trondelag Folk Museum

Sverresborg, the Trondelag Folk Museum, is an one of Norway’s largest open air museum’s and a regional centre for historic, vernacular and traditional building types found in Trondheim and the Trondelag counties, about five kilometres from the city centre. With over 80 buiildings exhibits include the recreation of old Trondheim’s 18th century townscape, and examples of rural buildings reflecting the regions coastal and maritime culture and economy, as well the Haltdalen stave church and an old village school.

Photo – Sverresborg

Municipal Archives of Trondheim

Online photographic archive of yesteryear Trondheim with nearly 11, 000 photographs, many of historical buildings