Viking museum forced to cut budget
Cost measures force planners to think in a new way
Ola Borten Moe (Center Party) has issued a clear message: The costs for the construction of a new Viking Age museum on Bygdøy in Oslo must be reduced by NOK 1 billion.
“On the basis that the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property, Statsbygg, has announced that the existing plans cannot be realized within the agreed cost framework, the Ministry of Education and Research requests that the project be reviewed again with the aim to significantly reduce the costs,” was stated in a letter from the ministry sent to Statsbygg and the University in Oslo (UiO) on May 6.
Moe told NTB that it is unfortunate and unacceptable that there is a cost gap even before the start of the construction project.
“We are pulling the emergency brake a bit and telling Statsbygg and UiO that they must cooperate in the coming month and come back with a project plan that is within the approved cost framework.”
The two players have been given a deadline of June 2 to send in their input. The goal is to scale down the project but at the same time ensure that the museum provides a secure environment for its Viking objects and creates a good museum for the public.
“The time when the state picks up the bill for construction projects that go far beyond the set-out cost framework is over,” Moe said.
On Feb. 8, university director Arne Benjaminsen informed the UiO board that the new Viking Age Museum could cost up to NOK 1 billion more than initially budgeted. The museum has a cost framework from the Storting of about NOK 2.14 billion, but the estimate is that it could cost up to NOK 3.14 billion.
“The messages we have received from Statsbygg show that the reasons for the cost overrun are the complexity of the project, the complexity of the building, the coronavirus situation, and the increase in market prices,” Benjaminsen told the board.
The university director warned against the cuts, stating that cost cuts to bring the bill down to NOK 2.14 billion would lead to major changes.
“It involves such large cuts that the project will not meet the goals that it will have as a future Viking Age museum,” he said.
For his part, the minister believes that it should be possible to have a good Viking Age museum within the cost framework of NOK 2.14 billion.
“My experience is that when people work well together, you can get a lot done,” said Moe.
Back to the beginning
He warned the project might be pushed back to its start.
“I hope we can come up with a project plan in which we can preserve the [original] concept. If we are to re-conceptualize the form and function [of the project], we will lose a lot of time. But if we now fail to realize this project will happen within the framework of the Storting, we will have to reconsider everything this summer.
The Ministry of Education and Research also writes that groundwork related to the so-called “round building” design will await further clarifications from them, with the aim that these clarifications will come during June. The ongoing temporary security work on a number of objects, including the Viking ships, will continue as before.
Thinking in a new way
“The construction project itself is very important for Norway. It will take care of the Viking ships and the surrounding objects, which are a completely unique part of Norwegian and European cultural heritage. They are one-of-a-kind objects, and they deserve to be taken care of and be available [for public viewing],” said Moe.
He has previously demanded that NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) to cut costs for the new campus project, which carries a price tag of NOK 11.7 billion.
Statsbygg says they now have to think in a new way about the museum project.
“We are interested in getting this project completed within the cost framework that has been set down and will get it done in collaboration with the University of Oslo,” said Statsbygg Communications Director Hege Njaa Aschim.
According to the communications director, it is too early to say what changes must be made to the planned building.
Statsbygg had originally planned for the museum to be completed by 2026.
For more information about the museum, visit khm.uio.no/english/museum-of-the-viking-age/.
This article originally appeared in the May 27, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.