Launched as a Millennium initiative in 1999, the Blue City project aims to coat most of the inner city of Sortland in various shades of blue by the end of 2004, using paint supplied by Akzo Nobel’s Nordsjö brand.
Around 8,000 liters of mostly acrylic paint has been used so far, with some estimates claiming that up to 50,000 liters will be needed, although the brand’s marketing manager in Norway, Arne Lie, is rather more conservative with his own calculations.
“In my opinion the project will need maybe around another 5,000 liters,” he explains, adding that around 30 shades of blue have been utilized up to date. “It’s mostly offices and shops that have been coated so far, although some privately owned houses have also been painted.”
The officially sanctioned project was devised by local artist Bjørn Elvenes, whose concept led to the formation of a private steering committee. His idea was to paint all 17 blocks of the inner city in various shades of blue with judicious use of contrasting colors to help create a modern character and identity rooted in the area’s maritime and fishing heritage.
“We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to being able to call it the Blue City,” adds Lie. “The people in Sortland hope to be able to market it properly by the end of 2004, something they haven’t really been able to do very heavily so far because not enough buildings have been painted yet. But it’s already attracting the tourists and has received a lot of media attention from all over the world.”
The first buildings, mainly storehouses along the waterfront, were painted in the summer of 1999, the idea being to gradually move further back into town year by year until the project is complete.
“It’s been a difficult process because it’s difficult to get the whole community involved in something so radical,” continues Lie. “There are also some buildings which can’t be painted because they are very old and are protected by preservation orders.
“But it’s quite a sight and once Sortland is blue enough to really call itself the Blue City it will be marketed with a much higher profile, which I think will be towards the end of the year.”
(Released: March 2, 2004)