Peace Offerings: The Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, Norway

A recent visit to Oslo’s inspiring Nobel Peace Center reminded me that conflict and yearning for stability are not unique to our times.

The Center, which celebrates its first birthday in June, is alive with high-tech homages to the world’s greatest peacemakers. Formerly a 19th-century railway station, the protected building is ablaze with vibrant color, twinkling with electronic lights and chock-a-block with interactive displays.

To enter, I walked through a glossy black wood box perforated with red and green holes representing a map of the world. I put my ear to them heard voices. Literally. The installation was humming with 50 languages asking the question “What is peace??

From this rabbit hole, I slid into London-based architect David Adjaye’s conceptual wonderland. The reception and gift shop were done top to bottom in “wide-awake red.? Beyond the exhibit hall that was showing photographer Robert Capa’s Images of War (until April 13), was a brass tunnel-like room called the Passage of Honour where a video of the current Peace Prize laureate, the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei played.

Upstairs the fun really began, thanks to the interactive creations of Boston-based The Small Design Firm. The story of Swedish dynamite inventor-turned-peace-promoter Alfred Nobel unfolded in a magical Harry Potter-style book where images appeared at a point of my finger.

In another room called the Nobel Field, or “digital garden,? thousands of tiny bluish lights illuminated gently waving metal stems holding screens filled with background on all the Nobel Peace Prize laureates since 1901.

Around the corner was an installation called the Wall Papers, containing more than 69 million pixels and allows visitors to scroll through names, years and articles on prizewinners, world conflicts and the Nobel system.

Downstairs, the center’s adjoining Café de la Paix, with its menu of savory snacks, crisp green salads and chocolate confections was the perfect place to digest all I’d learned. Peacefully.

W: Nobel Peace Center.

Posted by Maureen Littlejohn on March 30, 2006 in Travel

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