Rodeløkka: Idyllic wooden houses, narrow streets and peaceful atmosphere bring you back to another era. (Photo: Anette Broteng Christiansen, Thor News)
Rodeløkka is a neighborhood in central Oslo, and is known for its old wooden house architecture. After the city expansion of 1859 in Kristiania (today’s Oslo), the area was considered a suburb. In 1878, Rodeløkka was integrated into the city.
Due to the danger of fire building of wooden houses was stopped and only concrete buildings were built. In the 1900’s, Rodeløkka was a typical working class district and considered a slum area. The urban planners decided to demolish the whole area and build new houses. This meant that many homeowners failed to maintain their houses and the neighborhood became even poorer.
In the early 1970’s, many of the houses were rented and bought by students, idealists and artists who perceived Rodeløkka as idyllic. Moreover, the house prices were much cheaper than elsewhere in Oslo. The new inhabitants initiated actions against demolition and received support from both public and private cultural heritage organizations. Many of the wooden houses were therefore refurbished and equipped with modern sanitary installations. Due to the refurbishing of the area, the remaining 137 wooden houses are since 1988 protected by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage.
The origin of the name Rodeløkka comes from the parish Dean, Frederik Rode who bought the area from Dælenenga farm in 1854 (“Løkka” means paddock). Rodeløkka was later bought by gun maker Hans Olsen from Vågå, and in one period the area was called “Vaageby”. He divided the area into allotments and sold them to people who exploited the opportunity to build cheap houses. This was the first allotment area in Norway.
In the early 1900’s, Rodeløkka was an area with diverse industry. There was everything from chocolate factories, tobacco factories, bakeries and mechanical workshops to butchers, bone-crushing factories and furniture makers. Local historian and author Alf Folmer has written about his experiences from childhood in Rodeløkka from the 1920’s and 1930’s:
“I lived next to Bergene chocolate factory. On my way to school I went through a landscape of smells. From Bergene I could smell the sweet chocolate scent. In the street, I passed NKL Tobacco Factory. The sweet smell of chocolate was mixed with a strong tobacco odor. From the building, fans were blowing out tobacco smell that tore my nose.
I had to pass as quickly as possible in order not to get a headache. The smell from the next building was better. It was a “lompebakeri” (potato cake bakery). The windows were often open. The delicious potato cake smell came right to me. In the same street, Rodeløkkens Mechanical Workshop was located. There I met the smell of diesel, exhaust and red lead. I hurried over to the other side. But that was no better: Rodeløkkens Bone Crusher Factory.
It was the worst smell in the entire Rodeløkka. There was a stench of rotten meat that smelled like death and destruction. The smell filled the entire area of Rodeløkka. At last, I passed the Freia Chocolate Factory, which had another chocolate fragrance. It was sweeter than Bergene. From Bergene the smell was more “chocolaty”. I’d forgotten the smell of rotten meat.” (Alf Folmer, ‘Byens luktlandskap’, 2001)
Today, Rodeløkka is a charming village inside the city. On each side of the narrow roads you will find the small wooden houses decorated with different colors and decorations. Each house is unique. Today, there is not much reminiscent of Alf Folmer’s description of Rodeløkka. Independent publishers, painters, musicians, writers and other cultural personalities have taken residence in the area that appears to be Oslo’s creative sphere and recreational area surrounded by gardens and outstanding nostalgic architecture.
Text and photos by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Text by Alf Folmer was translated from Norwegian and modified by ThorNews
Source: Rodeløkka Vel, Wikipedia