Oslo Courthouse

Immediately upon entering Oslo Courthouse, visitors encounter Lex Portalis (The Gateway to the Law) by the sculptor Ole Lislerud. This sculpture consists of two slender freestanding walls, each 32 metres in height, reaching to the eighth floor of the building.

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  • Lex Portalis, av Ole Lislerud. Photographer: KORO
  • Uten tittel, av Øyvind Åstein.
  • Uten tittel, av Øyvind Åstein.
  • Lex Portalis, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Lex Portalis, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Kilden I, av Svein Bolling.
  • Lex Portalis, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Lex Portalis, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Lex Portalis, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Triptyk, av Svein Strand.
  • Titania og Tilblivelse, av Nina Sundby og Ingunn Skogholt.
  • Kilden III, av Svein Bolling.
  • Hedda Gabler, av Nina Sundby.
  • Dommer i lenestol, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Lansebærer, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Enhjørning - Barmhjertighet, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Lov, Rettferdighet og Barmhjertighet, av Ole Lislerud.
  • Paragrafrytter, av Ole Lislerud.
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About the project

About the project

Oslo Courthouse

About the project

Oslo Courthouse was completed in 1995. The building has four façades and occupies an entire block in the centre of Oslo. The main façade looks over Hambros Plass. The goal of the architects, Østgaard Arkitekter, was to create a monumental modern building that conveyed its function and status through references to classical styles of architecture. The main granite façade is interrupted by 24 projecting bosses in white Fauske marble by the artist Øyvind Åstein. Through the inclusion of rebuses (a type of visual puzzle) that can be read diagonally, horizontally or vertically, Åstein has created a project that is sculptural, figurative, and allusive. The motifs refer indirectly to the business conducted inside the Courthouse and include, for example, a chess piece, an ancient Greek athlete, and the face of an ancient Egyptian woman.

Inside the entrance, Lislerud’s sculpture draws attention to the foundations of our society. The sombre colour of the porcelain tablets upon which the Constitution is inscribed is intended to convey the seriousness of the business conducted inside the building. Up to the level of the fifth floor, each wall is covered with porcelain tablets upon which the artist has inscribed extracts from the Norwegian Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Act and the legal code introduced by Magnus the Law-mender in 1274. Most of the texts on the tablets are in mirror writing, which is intended to symbolize the inherent difficulty of interpreting the law. Approximately five per cent of the texts, however, are not reversed.  The idea is that someone looking closely at the tablets will discover this, and accordingly will never completely finish exploring the work. By taking the stairs to the upper floors, visitors can study the details of the porcelain tablets higher up each wall. The artist has also included comments on some of the court cases that were heard while he was working on the project, which continued for nearly two years. The inner surface of the walls contains extracts from recent court records.

The writing on the tablets higher up the walls becomes increasingly abstracted, until it finally comes to resemble a kind of calligraphic graffiti. Near the top of the courthouse, niches are set into each wall.  These contain figurative ceramic sculptures by Lislerud, with titles intended to show that there are always two sides to a case, for example, Pedant; Divorce; Cohabitation; Law, justice and compassion; Pedant carrying a dead weight; Lancebearer; and Judges on a sofa.

A painting by Svein Strand fills the entire back wall of the courthouse’s largest marriage room.  The visitors’ canteen is  home to a tapestry by Svein Bolling, while a tapestry by Ingunn Skogholt hangs in the staff canteen. The art committee also purchased two small sculptures by Nina Sundbye. One is installed in the waiting area outside the marriage rooms and one is installed in the entrance to the staff canteen.





C.J. Hambros plass 4, 0164 Oslo

Date completed


Project manager

Dag Wiersholm

Art consultant/Art Committee

Kjell Norvin
Svein Johansen

Building owner/developer



Østgaard Arkitekter A/S




Accessible by the public


Art scheme for new government-owned buildings



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