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The gate buildings

Northern and southern office buildings, the “design office” and the “main office”

Buildings no. 001 and 124

Year of construction 1906

Everyone who had to enter the smelting plant for one reason or another had to walk between these twin buildings. Functionaries and clerks went to their places in the office buildings, while the others clocked in at the gate just behind them, or were stopped for controls by the guard. When the shift was over, they came out in great numbers. People and cars went in and out by day and night, and the streets of Odda were never quite as lively after the smelting plant was shut down.

 

Smelteverksporten 1915-21 Workers entering and leaving the factory area in the 1920s. Photo: Kraftmuseet archives

 

The office buildings were built when the plant was established. Their main doors faced the street, and they have always been the factory’s outer façade. If you wanted to apply for a job at the plant, you had to visit the office first. In the early years the carbide factory owned the southern buildings, while the cyanamide factory had the northern one. But they have mostly been referred to as the “main office” or “the office” and the “design office”. They form the gate to the factory, but unlike the rest of the plant they were placed outside and were accessible to anyone.

 

The characteristic buildings are in art nouveau style, designed by Bergen-born architect Sigurd Lunde, who is also known as the author of eight buildings in the same style in Ålesund. They were the first buildings in this style in the centre, and introduced the new times to Odda. In the basements there were strongrooms where valuable archives of contracts, employee registers, accounts and other documents were kept. The buildings have been painted in various colours. In 2014 a copy of the original door was installed on the northern building. The original arched door emphasizes the character of the building.

 

People have lived on the first floor many years, and due to shortage of housing families have also lived in the attic of the “design office” in some periods. In the census of 1910 we find, among others, the 35 years old bachelor Frans W. Bruce registered as a resident of building 01. At that time he was general manager of the carbide factory, working under director Albert Petersson. Bruce and his family were later to move to the director’s villa at Eide. Bruce worked at the directors’ office every day for 38 years.

 

At the “design office” they produced plans and in-house designs of plants, buildings and machine parts, and received designs and construction drawings made elsewhere. Technicians and engineers occupied most of the offices and kept a watchful eye on the design archives. In the last years the factory was in operation the purchase department was located on the first floor.

The boardroom was located on the first floor of the main office building. This is where important decisions on investments and operations were taken. The personnel department and the director’s office were on the ground floor. The building was also home to payroll, account and sales departments and other functions. We can imagine that the atmosphere must have been just as stifling between these walls as it was at the smelting furnace.

 

Portbyggene på Smelteverket 1910-11 The gate buildings in 1910-1911. Photo: Kraftmuseet archives

 

The gate buildings today. Photo: Harald Hognerud Kraftmuseet

 

 

ANECDOTE:
1916 was an important year for Norwegian workers, with strikes, lockouts, international arbitration law and inflation. At a general meeting at the People’s House the workers decided to take matters in their own hands. All the workers met outside the buildings by the factory gate, while the action committee went to speak with the management in the office. They demanded a 100% increase of the gross salary.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “The managers were clearly nervous when we entered, but they tried as well as they could to make us give in. They blamed England and said there was nothing they could do, but we did not move an inch”                                                                                                                                                                                                                  told Karl Holmberg (from Odda Arbeiderforening 1906-1981).
 

 

Alf Jan Bauge vinterbilde “Winter at the Smelting plant entrance” by Alf Jan Bauge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

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Kraftmuseet

Norwegian Museum of Hydropower and Industry


Naustbakken 7, 5770 Tyssedal
Phone: +47 53 65 00 50
post@kraftmuseet.no