Article by: Nikola Lindenberg
Starting this spring the capital of Norway has seen the opening of Vippa, a fresh meeting place concept that promises its patrons an experience which merges the genius of creating good food, art and culture, and above all hones an openness towards learning and understanding. Located at the old loading dock at Vippetangen in Oslo, which has in recent years become a part of the urban renewal project within the city, Vippa is an ambitious undertaking which is already living and breathing its visionary philosophy.
Imagined as an indoor and outdoor food hall and an event venue, the main idea behind the project is the revitalization of the Vippetangen area. Vippa is one of the first enterprises which will seek to transform the old shipping dock into an exemplarily inclusive meeting place for locals, newcomers and tourists. Last week, we at House of Satori had the opportunity to visit Vippa during its working hours, and witness the work that has been done thus far. We were also able to hear many stories about the future projects and plans for the expansion of this exciting spot.
In our quest to find out more about different ways in which Vippa has already affected people’s lives, we have established contact with a Norwegian graphic designer Hanne Fossaa Eriksen, who was part of the team working on the branding and visual presentation of one of the food stalls at Vippa. The food stall in question, Aleppo Bahebek, serves traditional Syrian food. At its helm is the famed Syrian chef Mahmoud, who was among the millions of refugees forced to flee the country due to war.
“In our work, we wanted to translate the essence of the Syrian culture. We were inspired by the country’s vast cultural heritage,” says Hanne. “It was important for us to create a place that looked authentic, and did not appear ‘too Scandinavian.’”
This was not done purely for aesthetic reasons.
“There is a lot of warmth around us now,” said Hanne, the two of us sipping coffee sitting at a wooden table in the centre of the repurposed shipping repository which now houses Vippa. “That warmth is what the people of Syria need in this moment. Aleppo Bahebek will be a place of recognition and familiarity for the Syrian refugees in Norway. A place of gathering, where people can feel safe.”
Hanne believes that Aleppo Bahebek and Vippa in general have the potential to introduce Syrians and other newcomers to the city to the food culture in Norway, as well as inspire them to start businesses of their own and refine their entrepreneurial skills. At the same time, it can be a place where Norwegians get to learn about others and reach a deeper understanding of various cultures. In this way, a unique and incredibly important exchange may come to pass, one that has the potency to change, to transform, to inspire, and make people grow. One thing is certain — places like Aleppo Bahebek help us stay aware of the existence of people from different cultures and backgrounds who all now call Oslo their home.
“If Syrians come here to eat and Norwegians come here to eat, this can become a place for people to meet and get to know each other. And perhaps learn that they are not so different from each other after all,” concludes Hanne.
It is clear that Vippa is much more than a food hall. It is much more than a meeting place. It is a cultural center, where everyone gets to be themselves and share their lived experience with others, thus seizing the opportunity to spread the knowledge and learn at the same time. This venue has the potential to promote different, important narratives, to bring cultures together, and to show that there is potential within all of us to create something that unifies, and makes us and others happy and safe.