This is the Norwegian Opera and Ballet House in Oslo, designed by Snohetta, just one of Norway’s highly accomplished and widely acclaimed architectural firms. Seen here. image above by Jaro Hollan. The firm’s website is here Snohetta is the name of a mountain peak in Norway.

Another view. The building opened in April 2008 and was an instant hit with both Norwegians and visitors. According to the very well informed and helpful site, The Norwegian Opera & Ballet roof is the most visited tourist attraction in Norway.

Above is another extraordinary cultural building on the waterfront designed by Snohetta, this one completed in 2002 and built thousands of miles south of Oslo. This and below are photos of the new Alexandria Library in Egypt.

It is called the New Library of Alexandria because it is the resurrection of the most famous library of antiquity, which vanished more than 1500 years ago (there are conflicting stories of who was responsible and when) Images above from the library website Bibliotheca Alexandrina, here.

Inside image of the library above from here.

Above is a close-up of the exterior wall of the Library. It is a truly remarkable building in overall presence and in every detail. The Egyptians–and the rest of us–got very lucky when Norwegians were entrusted with the design of this world cultural landmark.

Snohetta has enjoyed success both at home and places far from Norway, physically and culturally. It has earned high profile projects in New York and just this month (July 2010) the firm was chosen for the major expansion of the SFMOMA gallery in SanFrancisco, story here

But Snohetta can’t do all the work, and there are plenty more fine Norwegian architects worth seeing ….

This is a Norwegian cottage, a get-away.

Tommie Wilhelmsen has been in practice 10 years, establishing his studio in Stavanger, on the west coast of Norway. Earlier this year, he was one of six architects invited to join an exhibition of young Norwegian architects in Ferrarra, Italy. That’s pretty much like a young film maker being asked to show his stuff at Martin Scorcese’s house.

Above images of Mr Wilhelmsen’s fine cabin found here

If one person deserves the the biggest portion of credit for bringing Norwegian architecture into the world spotlight it is Sverre Fehn.

Sverre Fehn (1924-2009) was the leading Norwegian architect of his generation. He is also Norway’s most widely acclaimed architect abroad and was the recipient of the Pritzker Prize in 1997. One juror praised his work for its “extraordinary richness, perception, and quality”. Photo above by Jiri Havra of a museum and cultural centre in Norway, more here

This is Sverre Fehn’s Nordic Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 1962.

The two above are recent photos of this fine building in Venice, quite well cared for and looking good after 48 years. Photos by the intrepid pair of SEIER + SEIER, see their flickr set here.

For many years, “Norwegian design” was a virtually non-existent concept everywhere but in Norway. While the Danes, Finns and Swedes managed to maintain a reputation as design nations after the fashion for Scandanavian design waned, Norwegian design has led a quiet, more withdrawn life since the 1960’s.

But their are now signs of renewed creative life in Norwegian design all over the place. Niels Torp won international acclaim for his innovative headquarters building for the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) in Stockholm in the 1980’s and has gone on to produce s fine body of work.

Above residential project designed by Niels Torp is part of the swanky Tjuvholmen development in Oslo, rendering by Knut Ramstad and seen here.

Above is a Warehouse Oslo Harbour Authority, again by Niels Torp

And this is Torp’s lovely Lillehammer Ice Arena. See more of his work here

Just time for two more Nordic gems

Kristin Jarmund. This is a recent school. Gjerdrum Secondary School in Norway. More at the firm’s website

Above is the National Museum of Norway by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter, more here

I was raised to think of Norway primarily in terms of delicious food that also happened to be good for you, as well as warm hearted people who didn’t stand for any nonsense. I’m a little surprised and totally delighted that I can add to that definition: great design that is delicious, good for you, warm hearted, and no nonsense. Oh and beautiful.