Fish Market, the Norwegian way

From the words of an avid fisher (who also happened to be the 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover), “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.” Indeed, there is no trade in the present day more steeped in antiquity than fishing. The task of designing a fish market building that aims to bring fishery into the modern era then poses to be a herculean feat. Mr Wolf got curious on a trip to Bergen, and tracked down Eder Biesel Architects, who won the competition for the Bergen Fish Market back in 2009. Christine Biesel, project leader, tells the story of “History Continued” as the project was titled.

Christine Biesel
Eder Biesel Arkitekter AS
Stavanger, Norway

Bergen´s fish market has had a long and important presence in Bergen. As a lively market place, it is leaving its mark upon the city. It is considered an international tourist destination and attraction. Its appeal is in its wide spread of choice of seafood, and the market life.

The fish market has evolved over time – the first vendors sold from their boats, and then moved on to traditional vending stalls, and now use the current market hall. Backlit large‐sized pictures placed in the present market hall tell the long story of Bergen´s fish market.

Today’s contemporary fish market caters all year round to clients. It therefore requires a permanent structure to provide a quality level of convenience and hygiene. Our design met urban requirements while blending into the historical context of the fish market, and created an image for the market place by means of modern architecture.

Our project gave the market a roof, unlike the traditional introspective market halls, which is also a great convenience in the rainiest city of Norway. This also contributed to the protected part of the market, providing shelter against wind and weather. We also wanted to create an open fish market that is transparent, so that we may preserve the picturesque view from the market, of the world heritage “Bergen Brygge”.

The transparency of the market also makes the market activity seem like part of a staged scene. The market life of preparing and selling fish is clearly visible, unlike in traditional market halls where market life tends to be hidden. We recognise and acknowledge that transparency, not just in architecture, but also in processes, is becoming increasingly important in society. In recent years, it has even become trendy to consume food while watching production processes, a behaviour that is well encouraged by the design of the fish market.

The building’s shape and the façade complement themselves together with the historic context of this world cultural heritage site. Even though the market evolved into its new shape, the choice of colours and materials emanate from its historic roots. Historic origins are newly interpreted with the materials chosen.  

The wooden panels reflect colours typical for Bergen - ocher, dark red and white, changing in rhythm and density. They render the façade lively. Seen from the front, the glass façade stands for accessibility. Accessibility and closeness, alternating with each other, contribute to a “modern marketplace” image inside and out. By night, the building structure beams with light.

The edge of the current pier had been designed to meet the needs of steamboats from the 1900s. Prior to that, sailing ships serviced the storehouses in the bay. Sailing ships could enter between storehouses. For that reason, the edge of the pier was made curved. This changed the appearance of the city significantly, and we made the curved historic edge of the pier visible in the pavement to give weight to its role. We chose granite for the pavement as a reference to the historic material of the market place. The historic edge of the pier, as well as the names of the initial proprietors, is visible as wooden lines on the floor.

Our aim in this project was not so much creating an interior for the fish market but more to provide a climatising protection for the market.  This was the most difficult issue, as we sought to blur the limits between a market place and a market hall, to cause them to blend into one. Therefore, we chose to keep the natural terrain of the outdoor market, so that one may walk across the entire market without encountering steps. A mere thin layer of transparent glass separates the indoor from the outdoor market. Market activities indoors connect to those outdoors in a way that creates one homogenous market place and market hall: The fish market in Bergen.




Words: Sharman Tanny
All photos copyright Eder Biesel Arkitekter

Notes on Norwegian Architecture
Norwegian architecture is inspired by the unique Norwegian landscape and nature. Beautiful projects placed in the wilderness answer to a deep human yearning and longing to be out in the natural environment. Even the big cities in Norway have good contact with the surrounding landscape, and architectural ideas get influenced by the close proximity to the mountains or to the sea. Postcard motifs with Norwegian architecture placed in the Norwegian landscape characterizes the international view on Norwegian architecture. People associate Norway with projects like the Opera House in Oslo, which has a sea view. Or they may recall beautiful vantage points on hiking trips to the mountains, which overlook the Norwegian fjords or waterfalls. But I think Norwegian architecture can tell much more than just what is captured as postcard motifs. In international trends, there is a movement to search for the missing link to nature, which is already well reflected in Norwegian architecture.