Von Hanno's Oslo

Wilhelm von Hanno is the architect behind many of Oslo's prominent buildings. In 1871 he designed the postal horn postage stamp we still use today. Now he has received his own exhibition at The National Museum – Architecture.

Text by the editorial group

Wilhelm von Hanno was one of the most important and prolific architects in Norway in the 19th century. He was originally from Germany and came to Norway soon after completing his education. He stayed for the rest of his life.

It is difficult to move very far around Oslo without encountering his architecture.

Would you like to go on a von Hanno architecture walk?

Download the map here

Rebuilding the city

On 14 April, 1858 one of the most dramatic fires in the city's history ravaged Christiania (Oslo's former name). Almost three quarters of Kvadraturen, the old city centre, burned down completely.

Von Hanno's painting from the fire, while the fire is still being extinguished. "Petersen's building after the fire", 1858
Photo: Nasjonalmuseet / Børre Høstland

Between 1853 and 1864 von Hanno worked with architect Heinrich Ernst Schirmer. Reconstruction work in the wake of the fire led to many new assignments for von Hanno and Schirmer.

It was one of the city's finer neighbourhoods that went up in smoke, and new, lavish buildings replaced what was lost. The painting above depicts the remains of Peter Petersen's building in Karl Johans gate. Von Hanno and Schirmer revitalised the new building, designing what became one of the city's most luxurious private homes, complete with its own ballroom:

"Peter Petersen's building in Karl Johans Gate", 1858. Architect: von Hanno and Schirmer
Photo: Nasjonalmuseet / Børre Høstland

Would you like to learn more about the city fire?

Welcome to the lecture "The Christiania fire of 1858" on 19 March

Von Hanno's three largest works

The Wilhelm von Hanno exhibition at the National Museum – Architecture focuses on three works in Oslo that fall outside the collaboration with Schirmer: Trinity Church (1849–58), Grønland Church, with the surrounding buildings Grønland School, fire station and police station (1864–69) and the Norwegian Geographical Survey (1876–79) beside the Palace Park.

Style was central to von Hanno's architecture, and to 19th-century architecture in general. But what actually was the style at that time?

Learn more about the concepts and application of style in 19th century architecture at the lecture on 12 March

A man of many talents

Von Hanno not only worked as an architect, he was also a stonemason and a draftsman. He drew for the weekly newspaper Illustreret Nyhedsblad. In addition, he was an accomplished watercolour painter. He started his own drawing school, which made an important contribution to art and architecture education in Christiania.

In addition to designing Trinity Church, von Hanno also gave shape to its interiors and all of the church's furniture: the lamps, door handles, pulpit, organ enclosure, altar, church silver and lion heads adorning the front doors. Von Hanno both designed and carved the stone himself. He had his own stonemason workshop right behind the construction site.

Wilhelm von Hanno, "The Stonemason's Workshop at Trinity Church", 1852.
Photo: Nasjonalmuseet / Børre Høstland

Postal horn postage stamp

Von Hanno is also the man behind the postal horn postage stamp, which was designed in 1871 and is still in use in Norway today. He designed the stamp for a fee of 15 "speciedaler", equivalent to around NOK 4000 in today's money.