Designing the cities of the future

Economist Øystein Berge wants to unlock the potential of future cities. Based near Oslo, he is involved in designing a new sustainable city from scratch. 

Øystein Berge doesn’t own a car which is rather unusual for a Norwegian living in a country where people are spread out over a large area and where the leisure activity of choice is going to the mountains. 

Øystein, his girlfriend and two children have settled in Oslo just 200 metres from the kids’ school, 600 metres from the COWI office and they enjoy the city life. So, they walk, use public transport and when necessary, car-pool.

“I’m very lucky, but this also tells me that if you plan a future city and reduce transportation needs, you can solve a lot of issues related to infrastructure and environment. Clearly, you will get a greener city, but the density of the cities also lead to high productivity and wealth creation,” says Øystein.
I’m very lucky, but this also tells me that if you plan a city and reduce transportation needs, you can solve a lot of issues related to infrastructure and environment.
Øystein Berge

Since he joined COWI’s office in Oslo in 2013, he has used his expertise in humanities and economy to add to the technical consultancy services at COWI. This combination of skills meets a growing demand among urban planners to understand how to develop a productive city and the city’s new economy. 

“It’s about time we had good urban quality of life – in Norway as well,” stresses Øystein.

Economic models inside and outside the computer

Øystein Berge holds a master degree in economics, but has also studied social anthropology, history and philosophy at the University of Oslo and the Humboldt University of Berlin. Before joining COWI, he worked three years in Sudan, advising the government on how to implement an economic structure for the unattended oil industry. 

After 50 years of war, this was a very challenging, yet rewarding assignment and it remains to be seen if the project was a success. But Øystein met his Ugandan partner there and upon returning to Norway, they were a family of four.

“Because of my background, I understand that the economic models we work on are more than what you see on a computer,” he says. 

Because of my background, I understand that the economic models we work on are more than what you see on a computer.
Øystein Berge

Decisions that matter

As a senior specialist at COWI, Øystein is engaging directly with people who are affected by changes derived from the projects. 

As in many countries, urbanism is not too popular in rural areas, but his ideas about urban value creation and sustainable development always trigger interesting discussions.  

 “I often prefer a heated debate, because it shows that you are involved in decisions that matter. It makes me try even harder to achieve the best results, together with the stakeholders,” he says.

Designing the cities of the future

Øystein appreciates the flexibility and independence his job brings. The volatility is feeding his appetite on still more visionary projects.

He has great interest in the development of future cities. For instance, he is involved in the designing of a new sustainable city from scratch: The Sollihøgda plussby (Plus City) - an ambitious environmental laboratory for smart urban development with autonomous buses, elements of shared economy and sustainable energy solutions. It aims to strengthen the future of the Oslo Region and on a wider scale, put Norway on the map as a frontrunner in designing the cities of the future. 

The voice calling for a sustainable urban future is getting louder.
Øystein Berge

A contribution to the greater good

Øystein is also a sought-after keynote speaker for conferences and seminars. A favourite subject is how an aging population poses a challenge to many societies and how cities can contribute to finding a solution. 

“At COWI, we try to move society in the right direction. We are concerned about the environment and I think we make a difference in solving the challenges by promoting and enhancing the benefits of the city,” says Øystein.  

On a personal note, he reflects:

“I play a tiny role. But there are many people working on this agenda, pulling in the same direction. The voice calling for a sustainable urban development is getting louder.”


Get in contact

Øystein Berge
Specialist
Spatial planning and Landscape architecture, Norway

Tel: +47 93041416