A Drop in the Ocean


Text published on posters and as insert in Morgenbladet

Sagene Public Baths

Designed by the architect Hagbarth Schytte-Berg, Sagene Baths was completed in 1900. It was Oslo’s third public baths after those in Torggata and Enerhaugen. Construction of the building was financed by Kristiania Brændevinssamlag (a collective distillery), which in response to an application from the municipal council granted 83,000 kroner in the years 1895-99. The baths provided people in the area with the possibility to shower and bathe. At its opening the building was described thus:

The building is admirable in appearance, although its outward aspect does not prompt specific and correct ideas about its purpose. Its strict and serious style – pure renaissance – almost leads one to imagine something like a public library. Yet it is a comely building.[1]

In 1926 a swimming pool was added on the site between the baths and Sagene school. This extension cost 87,700 kroner.

Today the baths are owned by Oslo Council, which has put them up for sale. The complex has stood empty and dry since 2000 in expectation of a settlement. For each year that passes the renovation and investment needed for a reopening of the swimming pool to the general public grow more daunting. In 2001 a reopening of the entire facility would have cost an estimated 35 million kroner, while a reopening of the swimming  pool merely for teaching purposes (with access from the school but not from the street) would have cost around 8 million kroner.

Sagene Baths is registered as a listed building by the city’s Directorate for Cultural Heritage. The preservation order applies to the building’s exterior and certain internal features, such as its doors and mouldings. The sales value of the building in 2005 has been set at 1000 kroner.


Swimming proficiency

In 2003 the Norwegian Swimming Federation together with the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue commissioned MMI, a market research agency, to conduct a survey of swimming proficiency among Norwegian ten-year-olds. The survey revealed that children in their final year at Oslo’s primary schools received little or no swimming instruction. Pupils in the “fjord town” of Oslo and schoolchildren of foreign cultural background were consistently less proficient in swimming than the national average. Here only 2 percent of pupils receive swimming instruction in school as opposed to 46 percent on a nationwide basis. The main reason for this is lack of finances within the municipality. This affects both the swimming pools and the provision of teaching in schools. The Norwegian Swimming Federation is calling both for maintenance of existing swimming pools and for the construction of new facilities to meet existing demand.



The Municipal Directorate for Cultural Heritage

The Norwegian Swimming Federation


[1] Dagbladet 7/5 1900