MTA by Longva Architects

Words by Knut Longva


When it comes to architecture in sports, there are quite a few good examples. Palazzo dello Sport in Rome by Pier Ligi Nervi, La Peineta stadium in Madrid by Cruz y Ortiz Architects, Braga Stadium by Eduardo Souto de Moura, to name a few. If I had to pick one favourite, it would have to be Leztigrund stadium by my former employer, Betrix and Consolascio Architects in Zürich. Besides being a fantastic venue for sports, it has unique urban qualities. The project takes advantage of a slight height difference on the site. The arena appears to be dug into the ground, with the top of the terraces towards the city centre being at the same level as the surrounding streets. You actually have direct contact to the city from the tribunes, and vice versa.

I’m Knut Longva—an architect living and working in Oslo. I’m the principal of Longva Architects, a small practice of eleven architects. Besides working in the office, I’ve been teaching at the Oslo School of Architecture, leading a small master-studio. In addition to this, I eat, sleep and spend time with my family. I love to watch my son play soccer. He is eleven—and a much better player than I ever was. 

I think it’s difficult for a young person to choose a profession; it can often happen by chance. I had a romantic image of being an architect: sketching with a soft pencil while smoking and drinking red wine. The reality turned out somewhat different. I was very fortunate, however, in attending ETH in Zürich, one of the best architectural schools there is. During my time there, I became very engaged with architecture. And after many years in practice, I still am.

At Longva Architects, we mostly do public commissions, several as a result of design competitions. The office was actually established after winning a competition for the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. A few years back, we won a competition where the brief was to design a new training facility for the Norwegian Navy.

The building is placed in an underused part of the naval base, and one of the most important design tasks was to demarcate the site and create a place of value from this residual area. The building is positioned on the shore edge to frame the training landscape and to define a clear boundary for the naval base. This placement also gives it a direct relationship to the sea.

The venue was officially opened in 2011 and has a complex program with facilities for both specialized marine training and for the 5000 employees who work daily at the base. The multipurpose building comprises a sports hall, two 25m pools, a spa, a yoga room, weight training and exercise rooms, and a climbing wall, as well as social areas. 

When choosing materials for the project, we were looking for something robust that would age well. The facade is mostly clad with low-cost white panels mounted in an abstracted shell motif, which gives lightness to the large, windowless walls, with the shell motif also being a reference to the naval setting. Exposed and untreated concrete, brick, unglazed tiles and oiled wood are used extensively in the interior. The pools are made of stainless steel. We wanted to use natural materials that would withstand both the aggressive shore side environment and the rough use by the marines.