The stock exchange building

The stock exchange building at Tollbugata 2 was formally opened in 1829, but at this point it only had a third of its current floor area. While the building has been extended several times, the original part with its façade to the north has remained the same.

The exchange building was built in the neo-classical style, inspired by Greek and Roman architecture. The façade that faces Tollbugata is dominated by a wide frontispiece supported by four Doric columns. (Photo: National Library of Norway)

Grosch wins the architectural competition

The capital’s businessmen fought for several years to raise the finance and win approval to build an exchange, and in 1823 the Exchange Committee invited subscriptions for a bond issue to finance the “Construction of an Exchange in Christiania”.

Christiania Børs’ construction plans were brought to the attention of Christian Heinrich Grosch, who was in the process of finishing his architectural training in Copenhagen, making him one of Norway’s first two fully trained civil architects. In 1823 he submitted his first proposal for the building’s façade to the Exchange Committee, and after some changes his proposed design was selected. The exchange building was the first major assignment Grosch won in Christiania. He went on to design the university, the old Norges Bank building and the ‘Oslo Bazaars’ adjoining Oslo Cathedral.

On 14 July 1826, the Ministry of Trade finally approved the plans and associated drawings together with a budget. In 1828 the building was completed in what was one of the city’s prettiest spots, called Grønningen, which in 1806 had been planted and laid out as a park. The building cost 14,429 speciedaler, which was almost exactly one tenth of the funds allocated to the construction of the Royal Palace. Over 60% of the funds spent on constructing the exchange building came from bonds issued by Christiania Børs, which had a coupon of 4%, and over 70 local investors helped to finance the project.

The building was formally opened on 3 January 1829, and it was the first monumental building to be constructed in Norway following its declaration of independence from Denmark in 1814. 

 

The original south side of the exchange building, which now faces Rådhusgata. (Photo: National Library of Norway)

Interior remodelling

In 1856 Exchange Commissioner Smith was of the view that the interior layout should be improved so that some space could be rented out as offices. There was considerable disagreement on whether to spend 4,175 speciedaler on making these improvements or use it to pay down some of the outstanding debt. The result was a compromise, with some of the funds used to reduce the debt and the rest used for changes designed by the architect Holtermann. This was followed in 1886-87 by more major internal alterations.

As early as 1865, the Society of the Friends of Commerce set up a committee whose aim was “to promote attendance at the exchange”. This committee wanted to build or move to new premises, but for cost reasons they settled for extending the existing building. They produced a list of what they wanted the extension to include, which included a reading room, complete telegraphic news each day, a library, Norwegian and foreign newspapers and journals, and premises for product samples and a café.

New inventions also had their effect on life in the exchange building. Gas lighting was first installed in 1851, and was replaced by electric lighting on 28 December 1893 with 63 lamps installed, including 4 outdoors. In 1882 the Exchange Committee agreed to let Christiania Telefonforening install the first telephone, and the building was connected to the national telephone and telegraph network in 1897.

 

The interior of the building has been renovated a number of times. The library and reading room became a central part of the building and its activities after 1865, and the frames around the various lists have changed a lot over the years. (Photo: Oslo Museum)

New architectural competition

Another debate on whether to move the exchange to a more central location started in 1889. One of the proposals was to move Christiania Børs to Basartomten, where the ‘Oslo Bazaars’ adjoining Oslo Cathedral are located. However, this proposal did not win the committee's approval and it was instead decided to extend the existing building.

In November 1907 an architectural competition was announced and, although over 40 architects submitted proposals, none was judged worthy of the first prize. The second prize went to the proposal submitted by architect Carl Michaelsen, and after some changes his design was used for the building work that started in 1909. This added a new wing to each side of the building and a rear extension, creating an internal courtyard. The extensions added by Michaelsen were so similar to Grosch’s original building that it was difficult to tell them apart. His Majesty King Haakon VII was among the 261 guests at a banquet for the official opening on 5 April 1911.

 

Following the major extension work that was completed in 1911, the building occupied nearly all of the park area. (Photo: National Library of Norway)

The façade to the south now consists of a temple front with a clock face that is supported by six fluted columns. A bronze statue of Mercury donated by the Merchant Conrad Langaad on 27 September 1911 was originally placed in the small inner courtyard.  (Photo: National Library of Norway/ Oslobilder)

Protected as a national monument

As the volume of road traffic started to increase in the early 1900s there was considerable concern that the building would be at risk from heavy traffic if roads were built too close, but these fears were allayed when the building came under the protection of the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage on 23 April 1927.

Because of the dangers of war at the end of the 1930s, a shelter was built, which was completed in April 1940. The exchange building, however, made it through the war years unscathed, but it did suffer some limited damage from the explosion in Grønlia on 17 August 1945.

After many years of only modest activity, the stock exchange began to see increasing activity after World War II. In due course the building began to run out of space, and in 1986 it was decided to build a glass roof over the internal courtyard to create a trading floor in the middle of the complex of buildings. The architectural firm Hille + Melbye A/S, which collaborated with the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage, was responsible for the work. The challenge was to adapt the old building to the new requirements without significantly altering the existing buildings. The Directorate for Cultural Heritage stipulated that the enclosed courtyard should still feel like an outdoor space. This requirement was met by ensuring the roof was not lower than the surrounding buildings and designing the covering as a freestanding construction supported by four concrete columns. The glass roof was completed in 1988 and the first electronic trading system came into operation at the same time.

 

Oslo Børs’ electronic trading floor on which brokers could input their orders into computer terminals opened for use on 14 March 1988. (Photo: Oslo Børs)

Open Exchange

The stock exchange continued to see activity levels increase, and the inefficient way in which the buildings’ internal space was used meant that some employees had to be accommodated elsewhere. This, in combination with a desire for VPS and NOS to be in the same building as Oslo Børs, resulted in the idea of moving to entirely new premises finding favour. In 1999, Oslo Børs was a stroke of the pen away from moving to the former Shell building at Pilestredet 33, but Oslo Børs ultimately invested in refurbishing its existing premises instead.

The planning work started in 2000, and architect Niels Torp was responsible for the designs. The refurbishment project was called “Open Exchange” (“Åpen Børs”), and the aim was to create a modern and efficient interior, to ensure there was space for the entirety of the company, and to preserve the special character of the existing buildings and to comply with the conservation requirements. The refurbishment work started in November 2001 and was formally completed on 24 October 2002. All Oslo Børs employees were now back in the exchange building.

 

The exchange building’s current interior layout dates from the renovation work carried out in 2001-2002. Four balconies were built in the atrium, one in each corner, and all the walls in the wings of the building were removed. (Photo: Ivan Brodey)