Reforming human-impacted landscapes beneath the surface of the Oslofjord

In the first of its kind at NMBU, Elin T. Sørensen incorporates art, landscape architecture and marine biology to shine the spotlight on a little-seen landscape that is adversely affected by human activity: the urban intertidal zone. Using these various perspectives, Sørensen provides a broad scope to create awareness of the underwater impacts of development along our coastlines. 


Watch digital stories of Sørensen's work at

Coastlines are increasingly cluttered by human infrastructures. Intertidal interventions alter the physical, chemical, and biological environment of marine ecosystems and, in the case of current building practices, deprive people of the opportunity for close, tactile contact with the sea. 

A local example in Norway is Frognerkilen, a bay in the inner Oslofjord, almost 60 hectares of which is covered by floating marinas. The boats prevent the sunlight from reaching the seabed and stop the water from circulating, the combined effects of which are detrimental to the flora and fauna beneath. 

“Divers call the inner Oslofjord a seabed desert. Nothing can attach itself to the concrete walls. In the natural terrain, however, animals find places to live in the manifold cracks and crevices. Changing the course is all about creating inclusive, marine neighbourhoods”, says Sørensen. 

Replicating nature 

A key challenge in this work is how to replicate some of the complexity of nature when designing marine-life friendly underwater landscapes. Sørensen used digital fabrication tools such as 3D modelling and photogrammetry to explore possible solutions. 

Together with a gypsum maker, she took imprints of the surfaces of Cambro-Silurian coastal rocks, a common feature along the inner Oslofjord. These rocks consist of layers of clay slate and limestone with variations in their surface. “Such surfaces provide ecological niches and great variation in the landscape,” explains Sørensen, who has a background as both a visual artist and a landscape architect. 

3D models were printed in porcelain and clay. The digital production was funded by ARD Innovation, which NMBU and NIBIO own together, after they saw a commercial potential in this work. The results include a 3D animation that demonstrates how architectural design could look in urban coastal areas, using the natural coastal rocks and marine biology as a basis for the design.

“I have set out to unify the landscape between land and sea, both in people’s imagination and by concrete designs for building into the sea in more inclusive ways”, says Sørensen. 

Elin T. Sørensen defended her doctoral thesis, Multispecies Neighbourhoods in Urban Sea Areas on 28 April 2021 by means of digital stories and via Zoom. 

Elin T. Sørensen making moulds of Cambro-Silurian coastal rock imprints in plaster.

Elin T. Sørensen making moulds of Cambro-Silurian coastal rock imprints in plaster.

Karin Beate Nosterud, Norwegian Technical Porcelain Factory

Relatert innhold
Går under vann med arkitektur

Går under vann med arkitektur

Plener og parker på land – betong og ørken under vann. Elin T. Sørensen tar doktorgraden på landskapet som mennesker skaper under havflaten. Hun er Norges første vannskapsarkitekt.

Published 21. April 2021 - 13:58 - Updated 30. April 2021 - 12:21