Most of Oslo’s loops were original privatized parts of Christiania’s large common «Bymarka» west of Akerselva. More unknown are probably the “professor loops” on Tøyen.
The term “loop” comes from the verb “to close” and denotes something that is clearly delimited. For example, if you tie a closed circle at the end of a rope, you have a loop. And the football loop where kids gather to play, is clearly fenced off by the buildings around.
It is a few hundred years since Christiania became familiar with the concept of the loop. It was used when Christian IV gave the newly established city an enormously long and wide land area from Bjølsen to Skillebekk west of Akerselva.
It was called «Bymarka» and was to be a common field and grazing area for the new town’s farm owners. This was organized so that it was the city of Christiania that would own Bymarka, which would be divided into loops.
Each apartment building should just be allowed to borrow and use a loop without owning it.
But after a few decades, the city’s management and the wealthiest farm owners had made sure to acquire just about all the loops. The story is alive and well as a place name around the former Bymarka.
For example, “Ruseløkka” is named after the 100-acre loop that the city’s mayor Lars Ruus “got” in 1629.
A Norwegian university
Since Bymarka had the Akerselva as its border, it is west of the river that Oslo today has many places with loop names, such as Grünerløkka, Bolteløkka, Schafteløkken, Voldsløkka and Ruseløkka.
The prehistory of the East Side’s loop name is mostly different. The nouns were created in the 19th century when the University generously distributed large properties to 20 of its professors.
The background for this generosity was the extensive Napoleonic Wars that raged throughout Europe in the years before and after the year 1800. For a long time, Denmark-Norway had managed to remain neutral. But for fear that we would choose Napoleon’s side with our entire large fleet, England in 1807 attacked Copenhagen and plundered the entire fleet.
This led to Denmark-Norway entering the war on the French side. Thus, England became our enemy and laid a fateful blockade in the Skagerak. Suddenly, Norway’s vital supply route from Denmark was closed, and we had to manage ourselves to a much greater extent.
We got our own kind of «government» and in 1811 we were finally allowed to establish a Norwegian university. First in Kongsberg, before the king in 1812 decided that it should be in Christiania.
Dividing up the manor house
Frederik VI bought up the valuable large Tøyen manor and gave it to the new university. He thought the farm was a good place to build such an educational institution, but the professors did not think so. They worked hard to stay in the center. And they got it.
But if they did not want to stay on Tøyen, the University still said “Yes, thank you” for taking over the rich Tøyen farm. Well-experienced gardeners from Europe were brought in, and they transformed the lands around the main house into an English garden, exactly according to the ideals of the time.
This is how today’s beautiful Tøyen Botanical Garden came into place.
But what should the University use the large fields for? Yes, Christiania was familiar with the fact that a large common area could well be divided into private loops. Therefore, the University divided up significant parts of the rest of the farm’s land according to the model of Bymarka’s division. After seniority, 20 professors each got their own loop as part of the gas to build summer homes there.
Today’s professor loops
Today we find few of the original 20 «professor loops» around the University’s botanical garden on Tøyen. A rapid urban development has removed both name and buildings. But the loop house of professor and minister Niels Treschow still stands and is today the big red kindergarten house right by Tøyenbadet.
He called his loop “Bellevue” because of the beautiful view.
Løkkehuset as a surgeon and professor Christian Heiberg was awarded in 1847, has also become a kindergarten. It is called “Heibergløkka” and stands right by the subway exit at Tøyen. Here, architect JH Nibelung designed one of Norway’s first Swiss villas, a very original house with two buildings which form a kind of confusing whole.
However, the house is not easy to spot, because it is located behind dense noise fences towards the streets due to the traffic in Tøyenkrysset around. But from the back you get a good impression of the rare Swiss villa on surgeon and professor Christian Heiberg’s loop.
While “Heibergløkka” is a lesser known name, probably history professor Jacob Rudolf Keyser’s loop is a place most of us know where is. Keyser’s loop became the largest of all the professor loops when in 1850 he was allocated a 114-acre property at the top behind Tøyenbadet.
It was soon named “Keyserløkka” after the professor and was sold in 1946 to Oslo municipality, which desperately needed new housing.
The municipality therefore joined forces with Obos and built a small community there with 42 blocks. Yes, this happened so right after the war that Keyserløkka can well be called Norway’s first slum.