According to the Norse sagas, Oslo was founded around 1049 by king Harald Hardråde. Recent archaeological research has uncovered Christian burials from before 1000, evidence of a preceding urban settlement. This called for the celebration of Oslo's millennium in 2000.
It has been regarded as the capital city since the reign of Håkon V (1299-1319), who was the first king to reside permanently in the city. He also started the construction of the Akershus Fortress. A century later Norway was the weaker part in a personal union with Denmark, and Oslo's role was reduced to that of provincial administrative centre, with the kings residing in Copenhagen. The fact that the University of Oslo was founded as late as 1811 had an adverse effect on the development of the nation.
Oslo was destroyed several times by fire, and after the fourteenth calamity, in 1624, King Christian IV of Denmark (and Norway) ordered it rebuilt at a new site across the bay, near Akershus Fortress and given the name Christiania. But long before this, Christiania had started to regain its stature as a centre of commerce and culture in Norway. The part of the city built from 1624 is now often called Kvadraturen because of its orthogonal layout. In 1814 Christiania once more became a real capital when the union with Denmark was dissolved. Many landmarks were built in the 19th century, including the Royal Palace (1825-1848), Stortinget (the Parliament) (1861-1866), the University, Nationaltheatret and the Stock Exchange. Among the world-famous artists who lived here during this period were Henrik Ibsen and Knut Hamsun (the latter was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature). In 1850, Christiania also overtook Bergen and became the most populous city in the country. In 1878 the city was renamed to Kristiania. The original name of Oslo was restored in 1925.
Oslo's centrality in the political, cultural and economical life of Norway continues to be a source of considerable controversy and friction. Numerous attempts at decentralization have not appreciably changed this during the last century. While continuing to be the main cause of the depopulation of the Norwegian countryside, any form of development is almost always opposed by neighbours, and as a consequence the growth of a modern urban landscape has all but stopped. Specifically, the construction of highrises in the city centre has been met with skepticism. It is projected, however, that the city will need some 20,000 additional apartments before 2020, forcing the difficult decision of whether to build tall or the equally unpopular option of sprawling out.
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