Situated on the Bellevue, at one end of Oslo’s main thoroughfare, Karl Johans gate, the Royal Palace in Oslo is one of the most important buildings of Norway and a mute witness of the course of Norwegian history since 1814. Built as a residence for King Carl Johan, the process of construction of the palace commenced in 1824, but it was not completed until long after his death in 1844. Only on 15 March 1849, the Lord Chamberlain took possession of the new palace on behalf of King Oscar I, and on 26 July it was formally inaugurated in the presence of the whole Royal Family.
Before the completion of the Royal Palace, Norwegian royalty resided in Paleet, the huge single storey townhouse in Christiana that functioned as the capital of Norway from 1814 till 1905. Although the proposal to build a royal residence in Oslo was first raised in the Storting, the Norwegian national assembly, in 1921, it was kept pending until the next year, when it was raised to the Storting by King Carl Johan himself. Finally, despite financial crunch, a commission was appointed by the Storting in 1823 to oversee the sale of government bonds to finance the project and the Danish-born architect Hans Ditlev Franciscus Linstow was commissioned to design the new palace. However, as there was no obvious choice, the decision regarding the site of the proposed building was left undecided, until it was selected by Carl Johan himself during a ride on Bellevue hill. Finally, the proposed land was purchased in July 1823, and the foundation stone was laid by the King at the intended site of the altar in the Royal Chapel on the 1st day of October 1825.
The palace foundations were completed by 1827, but the costly foundation works caused the budget to be exceeded and the work remained suspended between 1827 and 1833, as the Storting was not willing to grant further funds. To curtail the expenditure, the plan of the original building was revised, and it was decided to construct a simple U shape building, instead of the original shape of an H. In the meantime, the improved relations with the king made the Storting grant the extra funds for the completion of the project. By the summer of 1836, the roof was laid and the exterior of the palace was completed. However, the interior decoration of the palace rooms was completed later, during the 1840s, following the designs of Linstow.
Unfortunately, King Charles John never had the luck to reside in his dream palace, as he died in 1844 and the first royal occupant of the palace was his son, King Oscar I and his wife, Queen Josephine, who officially made it their residence on 26 July 1849. However, soon it became evident that the Royal Family needed a more spacious residence. This time the Storting granted an additional allocation to enlarge the wings of the palace and the beautification the exterior. The original roof, which was considered to be not in satisfactory condition, was lowered and a monumental temple front with pillars was added to the main façade.
Since it was first inhabited in 1849, the Royal Palace in Oslo has undergone a variety of changes in different phases. The sanitation was improved and electricity was installed at the end of the century. To meet their needs of the Norwegian-Swedish King Haakon VII and Queen Maud, a set of Royal apartments were installed in the palace, with bathrooms and lavatories, before they visited Oslo in 1905. Although there were little funds for renovation, minor rehabilitation and maintenance work was undertaken during the reign and residence of King Olav V from 1954 to 1991.
However, when Harald V became king at the beginning of the 1990s, it became evident in a survey that the poorly-built original structure needed immediate attention and it was badly in need of a complete renovation. It was found that the condition of the electrical system in the palace was alarming, the fire alarm system and firewalls were inadequate and the emergency exits were not at all secure. Since 1906, the kitchens and sanitation had seen very little improvement and the working conditions for the staff did not comply with the national working environment regulations. Apart from that, the façade had not been properly maintained and rot in the floor beams were also discovered.
Accordingly, the Royal Court presented a general plan for the renovation of the Palace in 1993 and the Directorate of Public Construction and Property was entrusted with the responsibility to restore the dignity of the building and upgrade the Royal Apartments. As the work involved comprehensive and complicated changes, the project was carried out in consultation with the Royal Family, representatives of the state, the Royal Court, along with the Directorate for Cultural Heritage. The huge task of restoration and renovation of the old building was completed by the Directorate of Public Construction and Property on 15 March 1999, just 150 years to the day after the Lord Chamberlain took possession of the original building. Later, the furnishing and interior decoration of the Royal Apartments were undertaken as a separate project in 1999, under the leadership of the Royal Court, which was completed in the spring of 2001. After that, the rehabilitation work on the roof, over the main wing of the palace, was taken up in May 2011 and the project ‘Roof over Roof’ was successfully finished during late 2019. The stables of the palace were renovated and converted into a multipurpose art venue in 2017, which is now used as an art gallery, museum and concert hall, opened to the public.