Olso Opera House

The opera house in Olso was opened in 2008. It's a fantastic building, designed to represent an iceberg. Visitors may walk up the outside and on top.

There's some very lovely artwork in, around and on the opera house. My two favorites are the walls on the first level and the cladding on the roof.

Olafur Eliasson designed these walls inside the opera house with rows of rhombusese that collapse as they flow down to the floor. The walls are backlit and intended to give the impression of melting ice. If the vertical axes of the rhombuses changes by the same factor in each row, what is the shape of the curves forming their boundaries?

On the roof there are large metal panels of cladding with designs made by circular bumps both pressing in and out (see the picture of the cover of 'tekstilkunst' below). I examined these patterns at length, pondering the design. Each position on the cladding could be out, in, or flat. +1, -1, and 0. Base 3 numbers are possible. Is there a message? I thought perhaps it could represent music. If I were using these elements in a design for an opera house, I would encode a Greig opera.

I couldn't discover a message so I tracked down the artists, Astrid Løvaas and Kirsten Wagle, and asked them. They told me the designs was based on tradition Norwegian basket weaving, and sent me a copy of a journal article which described the design and construction method. Mystery solved!

I was a little disappointed that the design did not have a musical basis, but neither was it random. It was based on a traditional design, and since the opera house is a Norwegian cultural center, it is still appropriate.

It is also a example of what I like to see in mathematical artwork: a design that has a meaning, a design that represents or encodes something, a design that both invites deeper reflection and rewards the person who is seeking meaning.

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